Body Language by A K Turner

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Body Language by A K Turner

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: I'm hoping that this is the first in a brand-new series: crime investigation from the mortuary. It's sensitively handled and the plot's a cracker. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: November 2020
Publisher: Zaffre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1838770044

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Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Raven is the senior mortuary technician and not only does she talk to the dead, she also hears what they have to say to her. It's not something she's inclined to share with people as she's pretty certain about what their reaction will be. She's certainly not going to share it with the new pathologist, Dr Archie Chuff, wearer of a genuine Barbour jacket and old Harrovian. He's very conscious of his position and isn't even inclined to ask for the view of the anatomical pathology technicians despite the fact that they have a lot more experience than him and he has only a limited amount of time to spend on each body. That will prove to be a mistake.

All Cassie's experience is of little help to her when the body of someone she knows and loves arrives in the mortuary. Cassie was selling The Big Issue when she first met Mrs Edwards - Mrs E to those who knew her well - and it was Mrs E's help and support which persuaded Cassie to attend her evening classes and get the A levels which secured the job she loves. They'd last parted on a bit of a sour note as Mrs E was keen that Cassie should go to medical school: Cassie was determined to stay where she was and departed in a cross mood. That's adding to Cassie's guilt but she's heard Mrs E say that her time had not come.

Unfortunately, the medical examiner thinks this is the case of a middle-aged woman having a drink or two too many and slipping below the water in the bath but how can Cassie get the matter investigated further? When the body of an elderly man disappears overnight from the mortuary she comes into contact with DS Phyllida Flyte. Cassie, tattooed and pierced Goth, doesn't trust the police and this one seems more up herself than most but Mrs E was her mentor and lifeline so she has to do whatever she can.

You know you're in safe authorial hands when you meet phrases which make you stop and just admire them:

A dead body could feel like an empty suitcase.

The silence lasted so long it grew scar tissue.

... pavements viscous with tourists.

The writing is classy and accessible. The plot just zips along at a good pace and I found that I didn't mind those elements of the supernatural (Mrs E appearing to Cassie and the bodies speaking to her) which would normally have me throwing the book at the nearest wall. They were part-and-parcel of who Cassie Raven was. The characterisation is great too: Turner takes very few words to lift people off the page and into your mind. I loved Cassie's Polish grandmother, Weronika Janek: she's wise and knows far more than she's any need to tell.

The treatment of the dead in the mortuary is sensitively handled: it's easy to feel that the bodies of your loved ones should not suffer these 'indignities' but they're not there to be offended. You come way from the book glad that there are people who will want to know how and why people died. Turner is good on this, as she is on homelessness and drug taking.

I hope this is the start of a new series rather than a stand-alone: if it is a new series it's got off to a cracking start and I can't wait for the next book in the series. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you enjoy Elly Griffiths' Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries you'll appreciate Cassie Raven.

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