Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford

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Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford

Category: Crime
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: A nice easy crime read, satisfactorily resolving itself, but suffering from loose editing and an over-used plot-line.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 224 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Robert Hale
ISBN: 978-0709089650

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Celebrating her release from 18 months under cover busting a drugs gang, Detective Sergeant Julie Cooper meets her cherished Aunt Jo for dinner.

Just across from the restaurant, in a dark alley, a man stands watching.

As the two women leave the restaurant, a motorcycle rounds the corner – not travelling at excess speed or in any other way destined to attract attention – shots ring out. Two bodies hit the ground.

Cooper survives and, newly fixed up by the doctors and given leave of absence and a little licence by her boss, sets out to find the killers. So far so formulaic.

And so it continues. Double Jeopardy isn't a bad book, but there's nothing particularly new about it. We have the gangs, the motives for revenge, the art and antiques side-angle, the cops and the P.I.'s all skirting around each other in a fashion that probably went out of fashion twenty or thirty years ago.

As a mystery, the plot has its share of red herrings. Unfortunately, neither they nor the false twists are laid as cleverly as the real clues, so the reader is likely to see where the End Game will kick in, long before any of the characters do. There are a few surprises and Stratford does manage to keep your interest in how they'll work it out for themselves eventually enough to make you want to keep turning the pages.

Cooper is believable as the DS, Tanner marginally less so as the P.I. The relationship between them is just too cliché to warrant comment.

The main problem with Double Jeopardy (apart from an overworked title that actually doesn't really fit the storyline at all) is a complete lack of editing. There are the bones of a decent cop/killer chase book in here. It would never be great literature, but it doesn't need to be. It does, however, need a bit more work.

Let's start with the basics:-

Consistency: a restaurant in the entertainment district seems to be surrounded primarily by offices and shops.

Show don't tell. There's way too much back story. Any creative writer will tell you that an author needs to know where their character comes from, why they are behaving the way they are. Any good editor will tell you that the reader probably doesn't. If it's relevant it will emerge in conversation, in silent monologue, in a snippet here and there. We don't need two pages on what happened three years before the story commenced. I need to know the man is a bad-assed s.o.b. I don't really care, exactly, what he's done over the last ten years. The way his staff relate to him can probably tell me all I need to know. Stratford doesn't seem to get this. Yet.

In similar vein: naming places. Why? If you must name your fictitious city, then please come up with something decidedly less clunky than Havenchester. But why bother. Describe the place; leave us to decide if it's Manchester or Liverpool or an overgrown version of Knott End. We don't actually have to label it.

Such were the gripes. Too many elementary writing mistakes. The shame of it is that on occasions Stratford has a truly picturesque turn of phrase. Quite possibly my favourite snippet of the month is: it was like being growled at by a hedgehog.

There is a wry wit on every other page and some decent fight sequences described with real flair. This, together with a genuine understanding of people, gives the author a great grounding for crime fiction – but a better understanding of procedural limits, tighter editing and a little more imagination in the plot department are called for before the best-seller list calls.

As I said, it's not a bad book. It's an easy read, that resolves all the loose ends appropriately, never stoops so low as to bore or disinterest. It just could have been so much better.

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

For more northern crime drama check out Dishonour by Helen Black or Damaged Goods by June Hampson.

Buy Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Double Jeopardy by Martin Stratford at Amazon.com.


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