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Review: When the Wind Blows

Two forms of madness take shape in Jack Benton’s strong seventh


· Reviews,mysteries

Slim Hardy Mysteries, Book 7 • Jack Benton • ★★★★½

When the Wind Blows is the seventh novel in the Slim Hardy mystery series. Hardy is nearly an antihero, harkening back to the old-school hard-drinking detective in many ways: he’s a self-destructive alcoholic, pouring gin on the horrors he witnessed as a former soldier in the Gulf War—and equally on the mistakes he made in his last case that resulted in tragedy.

In all of the previous Slim Hardy novels, Benton does a masterful job of showing us how Hardy’s addictive personality both helps him be tenacious enough to solve the case—often, these are years-old cold cases—while also destroying his life. Hardy has nothing at the beginning of the book: waking up hungover with only the clothes on his back, hating himself for the things he’s seen, the decisions he’s made, and the person he’s become.

Hardy’s search for the truth and for the justice that comes with catching murderers are the only way he can get even a glimmer of redemption, and he hangs onto that hope with everything he has. He’s a fascinating character, and even when he falls off the wagon, you can’t help but root for him.

In this installment, Hardy finds himself in a seaside town Cornwall in winter, performing physical labor for his job to pay for rent in a drafty trailer. His landlady approaches him when she realizes he’s a detective, asking him to solve the suspicious fourteen-year-old death of her brother.

Hardy soon discovers that few in the town want him to uncover the truth—and more he uncovers, the more he realizes that his boss might be a key figure in the suspicious death—especially as he’s married to the dead man’s widow.

The dead man’s daughter inhabits a different kind of madness than Slim, but one that stems from a similar self-hatred and guilt. Slim is sure that she is the key to finding out the truth about what happened fourteen years ago.

As the mystery unfolds, Benton peels back the layers of the onion one by one until the case shifts to another decade-old death. In the hands of a lesser writer, this might feel contrived, but Benton makes this work well. While we keep pulling for Slim to keep his demons in check and to perhaps find a sense of belonging, there’s always a sense of foreboding. When the murderer is revealed, it seems obvious in hindsight but no less heartbreaking.

Benton fuses tragedy, mystery, and redemption in the Slim Hardy novels in a way few other writers could achieve. When the Wind Blows is another solid entry in one of my favorite mystery series.