M R Hall, February 2014, 400 pages, Mantle, ISBN: 0230752047
Reviewed by Michelle Peckham.
(Read more of Michelle's reviews for Euro Crime here.)
In THE BURNING, the latest in the series of books featuring the coroner Jenny Cooper, she investigates what really happened when a house was burnt down, with three people inside. Did one of the victims (Ed Morgan) kill his two daughters using a shotgun, before setting light to the house, and then shooting himself? Where is his three-year-old son Robbie, who is missing, and why does he seem to have deliberately hidden him from his 'whore' of a wife Kelly, who was out at work. As usual, Jenny becomes engrossed in the case, and starts to uncover facts and details that others would rather leave uncovered. Her assistant Alison, who had a serious accident in the previous book THE CHOSEN DEAD is keen on returning to work to help, although intriguingly, the damage to part of the frontal lobe in her brain has apparently affected her social behaviour. No longer is she the disapproving assistant of the past, she is now quite gung-ho and eager to help. Jenny's relationship with her pilot boyfriend Michael seems to be going well, but then becomes complicated, as Jenny can't quite bring herself to completely trust him. More unrelated deaths work their way into the mix, which, on further investigation turn out to play a part in the story, and a larger conspiracy begins to unfold.
In the first few books, Jenny was fairly dependent on a range of pills and tablets to help with her various anxieties. Despite finally having weaned herself off these, and her regular therapy sessions, she finds herself having to occasionally resort to the odd pill or two in this story, as she encounters the usual resistance to her dogged determination to leave no stone unturned. A bull-headed character, apparently lacking in confidence to some degree, but yet still determined to go where others are reluctant to go, to discover the truth, she is an interesting woman. I'm not sure how much I actually like her, but one can't help but admire her determination. It all ends in a final climactic scene, and then a final solution to the last remaining mystery, nicely tying everything off. I found the big conspiracy story-line a little bit unconvincing, but otherwise the novel is nicely put together, entertaining and is another enjoyable read from this author.
Michelle Peckham, July 2014