Book review: Halifax Transgression by Roger Simpson

Sunday, September 18, 2022 Permalink

We’re very much accustomed to books being adapted for television but the opposite – books appearing as a result of popular television shows or movies – is less common. Though we did have the pleasure last year of a Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mystery (in print) following the success of that TV series. And more recently the book Heat 2 has been released, complementing the popular 1995 film (Heat). Here, well-known television producer and screenwriter Roger Simpson has adapted his iconic series Halifax fp, from the small screen onto the page.

I was a huge fan of the original TV series featuring forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax (played by actor Rebecca Gibney)*. I’m not sure I watched the entire series, but certainly the first few that kicked off in 1994. According to IMDb it aired until 2001, but I’d been overseas for a while then so perhaps missed some. I certainly missed the 2020 revival (Halifax Retribution) as – when this book, Halifax Transgression opens – Jane has been widowed after almost twenty years of marriage and I’d only remembered her as being very single when I last watched, though perhaps she also aged in real-time.

Book review: Halifax Transgression by Roger SimpsonHalifax: Transgression
by Roger Simpson
Published by Simon & Schuster Australia
on 05/10/2022
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 1761102508
Pages: 400

The first murder is brazen, violent and ritualistic. Committed in the victim’s home, the killer leaves few clues as to their motive or their identity. All the police know is that the perpetrator entered the house and impaled the art collector on one of his own priceless sculptures before melting away into the night.

Inspector Eric Ringer is desperate for Dr Jane Halifax to profile the killer, but Jane is cautious. She and Eric have a past … plus, she hates these kinds of cases; a psychopath is a psychopath, any way you slice it.

But there’s something about this killer that intrigues Jane. And as the bodies pile up, Jane must use all her knowledge and intuition to enter the mind of the murderer before they strike again.

Simpson’s obviously a talented writer and he has the screenwriting awards to prove it and – from the opening – his writing is really engaging. It’s hard to describe but it has an easy no-nonsense approach and felt real. I guess he’d be comfortable with dialogue in particular but he’s an economical writer and we’re very much focussed on the unfolding plot.

Even though I’d not seen the TV show on which this is based for many years there’s a familiarity here. Not only with Simpson’s prose, but he obviously knows  his characters and content. The latter is a little macabre and some of the murders (and accompanying torture) not for the faint-hearted…. or those who are particularly visual (which thankfully I’m not).

I enjoyed spending time with the always-pragmatic Jane; the complex relationships she has with the police and her inability to ‘switch off’. And even though I’m not visual and wasn’t picturing what was happening, it felt like I was being taken along here, joining the investigation so Simpson has the talent of placing readers ‘there’ amongst the thick of the action.

I liked part of the way this plays out but didn’t really ‘buy’ the final whodunnit or twist. I’d actually envisaged it being someone else. Someone I can’t mention – who’s referred to only briefly as having come into the life of a suspect – who felt like they’d be a better fit for the depth of passion and revenge to drive these crimes.

Finally however I liked that Jane has evolved a little in her relationships. The Jane Halifax I remember from the original series was a smidge screwed up in terms of her own life and relationships (though perhaps I’m misremembering). Here she’s obviously older and wiser. At the same time I found her a little bland and I’m wondering if I felt the same about her in the show (eventually). I suspect that’s why so many authors give our lead characters flaws or foibles. Of course here – it has to be said – that the macabre nature of the murders almost certainly balances that blandness out.

Halifax Transgression by Roger Simpson will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in early October 2022. This will be hugely popular with fans of the show and newcomers alike and I’m looking forward to more in this series.

* I also LOVED the TV show Profiler but suspect I preferred it cos I adored the lead character’s (Ally Walker) hair! #amnotatallsuperficial

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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