The Dentist (2020) by Tim Sullivan

A homeless man has been found dead, apparently the victim of an attack by a fellow homeless person over the ownership of a few cans of cider. The local Bristol police force are think they have the case wrapped up almost straight away – but Detective Sergeant George Cross has other thoughts. Not least, why did the unknown homeless man have very expensive contact lenses in his eyes?

Cross is not the most popular member of the police force – he has Asperger’s Syndrome, something that makes him a meticulous investigator while not the easiest person to get on with – but he is rarely wrong about this sort of thing. And when the man is identified (as a dentist, as the title might just give away) and Cross discovers that his wife was killed years earlier, he is convinced that the two cases must be related. But what would cause a murderer to strike again all these years later…

First of all, apologies that I’ve been concentrating on new fiction recently – well, apologies if you come her for the Golden Age stuff that is. I’ve always been a reviewer who oscillates from the new to the old, but the review pendulum is stuck at “new” at the mo. In part due to me getting over-excited at Netgalley recently, so I’ve a lot of review copies to get through, but this isn’t one of them.

The reason I picked this is as follows – as I can’t go to the Bodies From The Library conference this year (don’t let that stop you from going, it’ll still be fun), I’ve been looking around for an alternative conference. A lot of crime conferences tend to have only a fraction of the overall speakers that I’m interested in, but the Alibis In The Archive at the Gladstone Library in North Wales is an exception. I saw the list of speakers the other day, a few days before tickets went on sale, and I saw that Len Tyler, Dolores Gordon-Smith, Christine Poulson and some bloke called Edwards were going to be there. My ticket and accommodation duly acquired, my next job was to find out something about the other speakers, starting with Tim Sullivan.

Tim has a number of screen-writing and directing credits, but turned his hand to crime fiction with this book, initially self-published in 2020, but then acquired and published by Head Of Zeus, along with three others and two more in the pipeline. The pull-quotes on the cover are pretty impressive, but it takes more than a pull-quote to impress this reviewer. So is this any good or am I going to have to hide behind a pillar during Tim’s talk at the Library?

It’s interesting that most of the review quotes on the Amazon page for this refer to the character of Cross, as this is the main strength of the book. A positive portrayal of a man with Asperger’s while not being treated as an outcast – while he can annoy his colleagues with his apparent disregard for social niceties, it’s clear that they also respect him and his abilities – and also not playing it for laughs is to be applauded. It’s a sympathetic but effective portrayal and he is a great addition to the canon of literary detectives.

Having said that, I did feel that perhaps the book was a bit long for the story that it is telling. It’s a police procedural. While there is something of a surprise at the end, it’s not a massive one, more of a tweak to what the reader has been led to suspect for the final third of the story. It’s hard to tell the page count on a Kindle, but the middle section, before Cross gets on the right track, seemed longer than necessary and even when he does… I suppose it’s a reflection of his meticulousness but it seemed to me not to be added an awful lot.

So the jury’s still out on DS Cross, but it’s looking pretty favourable. I’ll take a look at one of the later books soon. But if you want to read about a very interesting detective, then you definitely should take a look.


  1. This wasn’t bad but I thought the characterization of the detective was a weakness of the book. He wasn’t an individual so much as a list of Asperger traits that the author appeared to be ticking off on a list. Agree that it was too long for its plot.


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