If I Should Die by Matthew Frank

Review published on April 22, 2015.Reviewed by Dorothy Anderson

Nudge Reviewer Rating:

I expect this novel would be described as a ‘police procedural’ but it is much more than that, because of the central character, Joseph Stark. Stark has just become a Trainee CID Officer after leaving the Army. He had started police training when he left school, but then joined the Territorial Army and eventually volunteered for duty in a war zone, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We know right from the start that he has bad dreams and has been wounded and is probably suffering from PTSD.

Despite his mental and physical problems he lands in at the deep end when the first case he is involved in, a gang of teenagers harassing and mugging homeless people, becomes a murder enquiry. This is dealt with in a painstaking and detailed way which shows the problems the police have and the tiring and relentless pressure they are under. Although his hip is giving him pain, Stark plays a full part in the case and and is instrumental in solving it.

His colleagues range from being nosy, helpful and scornful to finally understanding his work and motives. He has to deal with a psychotherapist who initially just annoys him and a physiotherapist who is a great help, as well as shielding his family from worrying about his health, both mental and physical.

This is the first novel of a planned series and I think it has potential. Joseph Stark is a dark horse and by the end of this particular book one of the mysteries about him –  why the Army are still so interested in him – is solved very satisfactorily and with a neat twist, but he has much more about him for readers to discover.

I learned a lot about the way ex-soldiers are treated and how they are rehabilitated and I enjoyed the interaction between Stark and army comrades and his new police colleagues.

When I started to read it I thought this book would not be for me but I was drawn in by the attention to detail and the very human dilemmas that Stark faces. I would recommend it as something different, not falling into any strict category.

Lots to talk about for reading groups.

– Dorothy Anderson

If I Should Die by Matthew Frank, published by Penguin on 1st January, 2015 at £7.99


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