Book review: The Mayfly by James Hazel

The Mayfly by James Hazel
The Mayfly by James Hazel

Ex-cop Charlie Priest thought he had said goodbye to danger when he quit the Met to become a top London lawyer…

But after being viciously attacked in his home by a man posing as a policeman, the brilliantly clever but dysfunctional former detective finds himself thrust into a web of evil stretching back to Nazi Germany and the deadly, dying days of the Second World War.

Prepare to be thrilled, chilled and utterly enthralled by the exhilarating crime debut from James Hazel, an amazingly assured and skilled young author who was himself a private practice lawyer before turning his hand to writing.

The Mayfly, the first of what promises to be an addictive new series starring the intriguing and entertaining Charlie Priest, is a cracking opener… a fast-paced, gruesome but gripping page-turner filled with remarkable characters, edge-of-the-seat action and ingenious plotlines.

Now aged 43, Cambridge graduate Charlie Priest was fast-tracked through the Met to the rank of detective inspector but left the force under a cloud and retrained as a lawyer. Now he has his own practice specialising in fraud investigation and earns over half a million a year.

But there are demons in his successful life… his older brother William is criminally insane and a convicted serial killer, his break-up from ex-wife and police officer Dee Auckland was less than amicable and Charlie suffers from dissociative disorder, an illness that leaves him constantly feeling detached from reality.

However, his relative peace is shattered when a ruthless intruder, searching for a computer flash drive, attacks him in his home. Not one to go to the police to be simply ‘assigned a crime reference number,’ Charlie starts his own investigation with the help of his legal team, including practice associate Georgie Someday, a young woman with a fine brain but few social skills.

When his attacker is found murdered, Priest becomes a suspect and the only way to clear his name is to find out about the mysterious House of Mayfly, a secret society that people are willing to kill for.

And very soon, Charlie and his team are drawn into the past and to the events at Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany in 1945 where some of the medical experimentation atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis were slowly coming to light.

But as Charlie races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?

He may have only one mind-blowing mission under his belt but the delectable Charlie Priest already looks set to be a stunning new star… funny, flawed, determined and yet constantly vulnerable to the vagaries of his dissociative disorder, he still manages to be a man for all seasons.

Dogged by his own demons and with a serial murderer for a brother, Charlie is an exciting work in progress, and his engaging cast of friends and colleagues – not least, the geeky but gorgeous Georgie – are set to share equal (well, almost equal) honours in a series that seems just made for the screen.

Throw in a breathtakingly brutal plot, some extensive research and a riveting dual timeline, and Charlie Priest and his creator look destined to become a dynamic duo in the competitive world of crime thrillers.

(Zaffre, paperback, £7.99)