|The Disappeared by M R Hall|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The second book in Hall's The Coroner series lives up to the promise of the first and is definitely recommended. The cliff-hanger ending only makes me grateful that there is more to come.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 450||Date: January 2010|
We first met Jenny Cooper in The Coroner when she had just taken over as Coroner for Severn Valley. It's now some months later and whilst she's settled into the job to some extent her relationship with her officer, Alison, is uneven and she's still shaky mentally and dependant on pills to a greater extent than she would care to admit. She's a feisty woman though and determined that she's going to do the job properly.
Seven years before two young students – Nazim Jamal and Rafi Hassan – had disappeared without trace. The police have told the parents that the boys had been under surveillance and that they have almost certainly left the country to fight alongside their 'brothers' in Afghanistan. It's all shrouded in mystery and secrecy but Nazim's mother is still grief-stricken and determined to get to the bottom of what has happened to her only child. She has him declared dead and then persuades Jenny Cooper to hold an inquest.
It was never going to be that simple though. At the heart of this case are the fates of two young men – and the stink of corruption and conspiracy. It's not just that Jenny has good reason to suspect the loyalty of her officer (who used to be in the local CID) and the honesty of the police; she's also getting pressure from above in the form of the security services. When she declines to bend to their will a code of silence is imposed on the inquest. Mentally close to breaking point she begins to unravel the secrets of her own past.
'Terrorism' has become a handy catch-all for when the government wants us in a state of fear and holding its hand more tightly. In its name all manner of practices can be laundered and there's very little check on what is being done. M R Hall catches the atmosphere perfectly. It rises from the pages like a fog and is all the more compelling because it's set in what might be thought of as a 'nice' part of the country.
The characters come off the page – Jenny Cooper is a great heroine. She's got guts and courage. Sometimes she's downright stupid and difficult. Her teenage son is at that stage where he's an adult child rather than a childish adult – sometimes a real support and sometimes difficult. Disgraced solicitor Alec McAvoy has charisma – but just how far can Jenny trust him, despite the obvious attraction between them?
It's a good plot too. I was always conscious of wanting to get back to the book and the pages just kept turning by themselves. I even forgave the fact that there was a cliff-hanger ending to beat all cliff-hanger endings.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For more about coroners (albeit in Laos) we can recommend the work of Colin Cotterill.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Disappeared by M R Hall at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Disappeared by M R Hall at Amazon.com.
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