Bad to the Bone by Tony J Forder


Bad to the Bone

16th July 2020.      4 stars.

The skeletal remains of a woman are found in a shallow grave in a wood in this first book featuring DI Bliss and DS Chandler. It soon becomes apparent that the duo is dealing with a cold case that offers few clues until the victim’s identity is uncovered.

Then the deaths start. Former police officers, who investigated a complaint of a hit and run many years earlier, start to die. It soon becomes clear that someone doesn’t want Bliss to uncover the truth about the victim’s death, or why she was reburied recently.

I thoroughly enjoyed Bad to the Bones, taking to Bliss and Chandler from the opening pages. Their friendship and loyalty is at the core of the investigation, which takes a sinister turn as a conspiracy to thwart their efforts takes shape. With the help of DS Dunne, they set out to find the officer behind the conspiracy, knowing it could mean the end of their careers if they get it wrong. Or their lives.

Intense and twisting, the plot becomes convoluted as the exciting climax approaches. Bliss is an intensely damaged officer, with more traumas and secrets than you usually find in this kind of police procedural. The angst ridden, traumatised cop has become something of a cliché in recent years, and the problems and troubles Bliss experienced occasionally felt a little overdone, slowing the story.

Though flawed and prone to mistakes, his determination, sense of justice and refusal to be cowed by everything life throws at him won me over.

His boss, Superintendent Sykes, felt a little two-dimensional with his stereotyped, by-the-book attitude and barely veiled dislike of Bliss. The friction between them added conflict and an additional threat, but never felt realistic to me, especially in their confrontational scenes.

But these were minor issues with an otherwise absorbing and engaging story that had me turning the pages at pace to reach the climax. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in the series and would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys well-written and thoughtful police procedural crime fiction.


A skeletal body is unearthed in a wooded area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. DI James Bliss, together with DC Penny Chandler, investigate the case and discover that the young, female victim had been relocated from its original burial site.

A witness is convinced that a young female was struck by a vehicle back in the summer of 1990, and that police attended the scene. However, no record exists of either the accident or the reported victim. As the case develops, two retired police officers are murdered. The two are linked with others who were on duty at the time a road accident was reported.

As Bliss and Chandler delve deeper into the investigation, they start to question whether senior officers may have been involved in the murder of the young women who was buried in the woods.

As each link in the chain is put under duress, so is Bliss who clashes with superiors and the media.

When his team receives targeted warnings, Bliss will need to decide whether to drop the case or to pursue those responsible.

Will Bliss walk away in order to keep his career intact or will he fight no matter what the cost?

And is it possible the killer is much closer than they imagined?

Bad to the Bone

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