A TV reporter turns detective in a new thriller, a book which is a reflection of the career of the BBC Crime Correspondent who wrote it. 'A Popular Murder' is Simon Hall's first novel. Its catalyst was Simon's move from environment reporting, which he'd been doing for five years, into crime. It's a fate that also befalls the book's hero, Dan Groves, a punishment from his editor for paying two prostitutes for an interview and bringing a stinging complaint from a local MP. Dan starts plotting revenge, but such sweet thoughts will have to wait. A man is found blasted to death with a shotgun in a lay by. Already uneasy in his new job, Dan gets a late night scramble call to the scene and finds he knows the victim. It's a local businessman with a changing personality. One day in the headlines as Bray the Bastard for his ruthlessness, the next the Angel of St Jude's after saving a hospice, then the Jekyll and Hyde businessman when he spurns a plea to help a charity that provides holidays for disabled children. A media pack gathers, and all the other journalists know the intricacies of police work much better than Dan. He feels like the new kid in class.His discomfort grows, but he has an idea.
Dan asks to shadow the man in charge of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Breen. It's election time and the Home Office are desperate for good news on law and order, so the police reluctantly agree. Dan gets a rough ride. The detectives are jeering and hostile and goad him into a series of rows. But he's stubborn, toughs it out and forces them to change their minds when a child is abducted by a predatory paedophile. Dan calls the newsroom and arranges an instant outside broadcast with Chief Inspector Breen. The TV appeal sees the man caught and the young boy saved. "We owe you one for that," says Adam, now letting Dan use his Christian name. "Kids usually end up dead - or worse." Adam starts to see the potential for using the power of television to solve the teasing central riddle of the murder case. Why did whoever killed Bray pass up a chance to do it when the weather was fine, but rearrange their fatal meeting for days later when there was heavy rain?In the course of the book, Dan discovers what happened in Edward Bray's life to make him the Jekyll and Hyde character of the newspaper headlines, presents an outside broadcast from a Cornish village up to his waist in a flood, uses his TV fame to help the police solve the murder and, with the help of his friend, Dirty El, the shameless news photographer, finally gets revenge on the MP who laid him low.