To anyone even remotely connected with The Boar, the name Reece Goodall is one that will forever go down in the history books. Having written over 2000 articles for us to date, Reece undoubtedly sits at the pinnacle of The Boar royalty. Alongside his extraordinary track record, Reece has been spoiling Books Editors over the last four years thanks to his fabulous Professor Rycroft crime series.
It started back in August 2019 with the release of The Three Killers, which Georgia Simox, then Books Editor, rated very highly. Portrait of Death and The Ghosts of Linehan Hall, the second and third books in the series respectively, were also well-received, and they would pave the way to Each Separate Dying Ember, Reece’s latest addition to the series.
Reece was kind enough to send me a copy before release, and given that I will be taking an entire module dedicated to British Crime Fiction this year, I leapt at the opportunity to review what really is an outstanding collection of stories.
The title of the collection is taken from Edgar Allan Poe’s magnum opus, ‘The Raven’. Unlike a certain Dr. Grainger, I am by no means an expert on Poe, however I really didn’t have to be to appreciate Reece’s unique method of storytelling.
‘Each Separate Dying Ember’ is the first story in the collection, and it follows a sequence of gripping and rather disturbing murders. Reece doesn’t hesitate to delve into the nitty gritty, and within a small number of pages, the bloody massacre is in full swing. The story maintains that sharp and brisk tempo throughout, which I felt really gave it the oomph factor. It’s a difficult thing to pull off, and I’ve seen many writers somewhat miss the mark, however Reece joyfully blends compelling action with definitive suspense throughout.
Whether you’re a big Poe fan or not, it’s undeniable that the mystery presented here is entirely unputdownable
What mobilises the first story so well is Reece’s calling upon the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It truly is a stroke of genius, as Poe’s stories are delightfully bound into the captivating murder mystery presented to Rycroft and his crew. This unique blend of murder and academia is one that had me entirely hooked, and whether you’re a big Poe fan or not, it’s undeniable that the mystery presented here is entirely unputdownable.
‘Children of the Night’, the collection’s second story, is a lot more casual in its conformity to literary tradition. The story is loosely centred around vampires but adopts a much broader modern scope, fuelled by revenge and lust. Given the emphatic plot of the first story, I felt this one was a little weaker, as I had managed to figure it out fairly early on. I would have liked Reece’s energetic writing to have shone through more here, and although the ending did that in traditional Rycroft fashion, it just didn’t have me guessing as much as it could have done.
Witty with a knack for cracking cases by the smallest of margins, it wouldn’t be absurd to put him up there with the likes of Sherlock and Poirot
However, I will concede that it made me appreciate Reece’s impeccable character constructs a whole lot more, and ‘Children of the Night’ really is the pick of the bunch in that regard. There is so much about Rycroft that is rich and likeable, possessing all the mannerisms you’d want from your title character. Witty with a knack for cracking cases by the smallest of margins, it wouldn’t be absurd to put him up there with the likes of Sherlock and Poirot. Reece instils this strange catharsis as Rycroft compellingly relays the cases back to the surrounding characters. It’s as if you’ve entered the innermost workings of Rycroft’s mind – one that is incredibly technical and entirely well-constructed I must stress.
Even the unlikeable characters were very strong in their formation. I found Jack Dacres to be a thoroughly entertaining “villain”, and he was a brilliant example of Reece modernising detective fiction to fit in with the tech-obsessed youth of today.
The same can be said for the third short story, ‘The Hitman’s Ghost’. What I particularly liked here is that Reece isn’t afraid to put Rycroft right in the thick of the action. The murder takes place directly in front of him in a bizarre opportunistic frenzy, which leads to an incredibly gripping and claustrophobic plot. It kept me guessing the whole way through and had such a clever and inventive plot twist that I just would never have guessed. I felt it unfolded in the most beautiful way, and the likes of Jess and Mrs. Wilberforce added some surprising yet welcomed humour. This was probably the most difficult case of them all, and I challenge you all to see if you can solve it!
Reading this was like watching a pressure cooker nearly implode, such was the weight on Rycroft having to pull off one of his finest-ever cases
And at last but by no means least comes ‘The Bank Job’, the fourth and final story of the collection. Like ‘Children of the Night’, I had this one figured out quite early on, however that didn’t take much away from what is an incredibly captivating plot. Again, Rycroft is in the thick of it, this time being held hostage in a bank by a suspected murderer. Reading this was like watching a pressure cooker nearly implode, such was the weight on Rycroft having to pull off one of his finest-ever cases. I truly felt in a race against time to reach the end, just to be proven that I had cracked the case. Unlike the other three stories, with this one I was never entirely sure that the truth would come out. It gave it this legitimate urgency that was truly unlike anything else I have read in years, an astounding finale to what is a very special collection of crime fiction.
Because of the book’s significance and the fact that each story can be valued as standalone narratives, I would rather not offer it a numerical value. Instead, I find it appropriate to reiterate a word I have previously stated. Each Separate Dying Ember is utterly unputdownable, and that I can say with as much certainty and conviction as Professor Rycroft ever could.
Each Separate Dying Ember was released on 21 August 2023. You can purchase your copy and browse the Professor Rycroft series via the link here