City of Fire by Robert Ellis

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City of Fire by Robert Ellis

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Myfanwy Rodman
Reviewed by Myfanwy Rodman
Summary: A complex and compelling police procedural.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 483 Date: July 2008
Publisher: Pan Books
ISBN: 978-0330450553

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Lena Gamble is the new cop on the block and faces her first Homicide as lead detective. A young woman has been murdered and mutilated in her own bed and all the evidence points to her husband, an open and shut case. But real life is never this simple. As the case against the husband begins to fall apart Lena comes to realise that a serial rapist is targeting woman all over the city and worse, the LAPD has missed his trail. Until now that is when rape has turned to murder and the number of victims becomes apparent.

Haunted by the unsolved murder of her own brother five years earlier, Lena faces departmental whitewash, rabid publicity and the difficult task of catching a dangerous sexual predator whose motivations are unknown. But there is something else that threatens Lena, the killer, who the media has dubbed Romeo, stalks, watches and then attacks attractive young women and Lena Gamble is just his 'type.'

City of Fire is a slick and competent police procedural. The detail and realism of police department politics and homicide procedures in the LAPD is impressive and gives the novel a strong believability, as does the detailed descriptions of LA and the surrounding area. Unlike some books that take on this popular genre City of Fire is not an action movie in book form. It has all the complexity and layers of plot that mark a good novel. Characters are well rounded, highly motivated and sympathetic and the different strands of the plot, viewpoints and action scenes are all beautifully handled.

No words are wasted in this book, where even a throw away conversation between two detectives later has direct relevance to the killer's place of work. And the five-year-old murder of Lena Gamble's brother that shapes her character so strongly becomes a part of the ongoing plot in its own right with a nicely developed link to the present day.

I have no real complaints about this book, though I do feel that serial killer stories are perhaps getting a little old and I thought it a shame that the romance potential between Lena and another detective was side stepped throughout. It just seemed like a wasted opportunity to learn more about Lena and give her something to focus on other then her work. I did find it amusing that unlike many detectives in this genre, Lena seems to like everyone and to get on well with her co-workers. She breaks relatively few rules and doesn't come across as the maverick style character so popular in crime fiction. She is more an upright detective who does the responsible thing, even when it is difficult.

I really enjoyed reading along with Lena as she unravelled puzzles and discovered clues. I found City of Fire a deeply satisfying book and I look forward to reading the next one. This is the beginning of a series and though the book ties up nicely there is definitely enough unfinished business to leave the reader wanting more. Highly Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp.

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