The Coroner by M R Hall

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The Coroner by M R Hall

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Why does everyone want to forget the deaths of two teenagers who have recently been in a detention centre? Newly appointed coroner Jenny Cooper is determined to find out. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 450 Date: January 2009
Publisher: Macmillan
ISBN: 978-0230709843

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Even in these days of supposed sexual equality a female coroner is still something of a rarity and the job seemed like a godsend to Jenny Cooper. She was over forty, recovering from a messy divorce from a serial womaniser and to cap it all she'd had a breakdown. Psychiatric treatment had done some good but temazepam is the crutch on which she relies, to the extent that she has some devious methods of taking the pills without appearing to do so.

The start in the new job wasn't particularly easy. Her predecessor had died suddenly and Jenny was left to pick up the pieces he had left. In amongst all the usual deaths there are two which arouse her curiosity. Danny Wills was just fourteen and in a youth detention centre when he was found hanging in his cell and despite being described as a teen terror he had been terrified at the thought of a custodial sentence. Danny came from a dysfunctional family but Katy Taylor came from a decent home and her family had been uncomprehending of her drug taking and prostitution and then traumatised by her death. She was another teen graduate of the local detention centre. Understanding how these deaths came about was going to take all Jenny's strength – and even she wasn't really certain that she had what it took.

If you're looking for characters that stay with you then this is your book. Jenny takes temazepam the way that kids scoff Smarties and sometimes you wonder how she stays upright, but she manages to carry the book without dominating it. There's the damaging relationship which she had with her ex-husband, the remnants of which won't quite go away mainly because he has custody of their son. She has a strange relationship too with her assistant who still suffers from the unrequited love she had for Jenny's predecessor. The staff at the hospital, the detention centre all live on in your mind.

It's a good story too, perhaps lacking a little in pace in the middle section but otherwise moving smartly along. The pill-popping coroner could have made for a clunky story but Hall avoids that and manages to present a side of the law with which few of us will be familiar. There's a satisfying conclusion and a feeling of a book well worth reading.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag. We also have a review of The Disappeared by M R Hall.

Contrary to expectation the classic Coroner's Pidgin by Margery Allingham didn't have much to do with the coroner, but I this type of book appeals to you then we can recommend The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett.

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