This is a "classic" FFB from the archives:
It's amazing that Roger Ormerod, a native of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, managed to end up as writer, given his background. Born in 1920, he worked various jobs, including postal worker, shop loader in an engineering factory, clerk in county court, inspector for Department of Social Security, and lists his hobbies as amateur tailoring, wine making, stereo photography and high fidelity.
But somehow in the middle of that, he wrote some 22 standalone crime novels: four novels in a series featuring Philipa Lowe and Oliver Simpson; 16 books in a series featuring private detective David Mallin; and 11 in his Richard and Amelia Patton series, a total of 53 books, all penned between 1974 and 1998.
His interest in crime fiction began with Sherlock Holmes stories in Savoy magazines he discovered at his grandmother's house which started him on his path to writing, which went basically nowhere...until what he called a "freak acceptance" of his first TV play as his first sale, which landed an agent who said he wrote better novels. The first of those, Time to Kill, featuring P.I. David Mallin, was published when Ormerod was 54. He once said about his writing philosophy: "I am principally interested in human motivation in respect of crimes, rather than the mechanics of them. My main intention is to entertain rather than to instruct."
Ormerod's creation Detective Inspector Richard Patton is known as a maverick and a pain in the neck by his superiors, who flouts regulations and won't follow orders, which is why they're relieved when he decides to take early retirement. At the start of The Hanging Doll Murder (published in the UK as Face Value), Patton is due to retire in three days. But he's surprisngly ambivalent about the move, especially when the sadistic Clive Kendall, a child-rapist whom he'd jailed years before, is released from prison. Retirement seems even less likely when Patton faces yet another loose end relating to the Kendall case, the husband of Amelia Trowbridge, who's gone missing and whose burned-out car is discovered in a ravine. As Patton navigates around the clues, including a hanging doll with a goatee beard, the case becomes even more personal when he finds himself getting too close to the prime suspect—Amelia.
Trevor Royle, in the St. James Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers, summarized Ormerod's writing style as having a "nonchalance . . . reminiscent at times of Raymond Chandler. As well as realism of background, Ormerod's writing is notable for its terse and natural dialogue and for an ability to switch the direction of the narrative." Ormerod has also received positive reviews for his characterizations and insights into complex human relationships and motivations, as in this excerpt, musings from Patton:
That Sunday had been my last rest-day in harness, so I'd decided to treat it as a trial run for all my glorious days of freedom ahead. I'd rolled out of bed. A new day. Tra-la! But it hadn't lasted long. After breakfast, the grey day had seemed insupportable indoors, and all I had to fall back on was the same old routine. It had therefore occurred to me to drive out into the country and dicker around with a couple of minor issues. But Brason had to go and upset the equilibrium by offering interest, and Ted Clayton had presented a clear line of action I wasn't going to be in a position to carry through. It left me tense, my mind racing, and staring out at the wind-blown drifts of heavier flakes past my window. Like my life, I thought in disgust, colourless and insubstantial, and blowing past.
One criticism of Ormerod's work may be what Reginald Hill of Books & Bookmen called an unnecessary twisting and twisting at the tail of Face Value "till the whole thing was bent out of shape." In fact, Ormerod is known for his labyrinthine plots and deep barrel of clues, and by the time he does wind down the denouement, there might be a touch of "it's about time," but all in all, The Hanging Doll Murder is a solid procedural with a pinch of psychological and suspense genres thrown in. Trevor Royle wasn't far off in calling Ormerod "one of Britain's best traditional crime writers."