Dust to Dust (Steven Dunbar) by Ken McClure

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Dust to Dust (Steven Dunbar) by Ken McClure

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is another Dr Dunbar thriller: I get the impression McClure has built up a faithful fan base and I can see why. This novel is all about various medical scenarios with a side order of government agencies with their own agendas which all measures up for a fast-paced thriller-type read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Polygon
ISBN: 978-1846971266

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John Motram is a cell biologist. He's a promising and well-though of academic and his pet subject is - Black Death. Intrigue is high on the agenda right from the beginning. Motram is invited to a meeting along with other high-fliers in their respective fields. This meeting is top secret. Motram is, however, mystified. The situation appears pretty straightforward, so why all this cloak-and-dagger stuff, he wonders. And why has everyone to refer to the patient only as 'Patient X?'

There's a lovely piece which illustrates the history of the British Isles, but specifically Oxford. Motram is making polite conversation with his host at Balliol College and understands that ... it's probably the oldest college in Oxford. Apparently the foundation stone pre-dates Black Death. Deft touch. A lot of the action takes place at Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders. This is a golden opportunity for McClure to give the reader some historical facts. And he does. But he does it with a light touch. It all naturally weaves in and out of the main story. Unfortunately for the well-liked Motram, he somehow endangers his life in the line of academic research. And although his love-life is in disarray, plenty of people are concerned for his welfare. But not everyone has these charitable thoughts ...

This is when things get really complex and complicated. Agencies and individuals seem to have their own preferred outcome. Into the fray steps Dr Dunbar (hero of the novel) to get things back on track and brought to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. But does he? McClure has great fun with the reader, pulling this way, then that way, all in the name of a good old yarn. The dialogue is natural and fluid. Very easy to read.

There's a few sub-plots within the main plot and Dunbar is seen charging up and down the M1. One day to a hastily convened meeting in London then back to the relative calm and beauty of the Borders. But the net appears to be closing in. McClure gives us likable characters throughout. It's all entertaining, page-turning stuff. McClure shares other parts of Scotland with the reader, such as gritty Glasgow. We're taken round the poverty-ridden East End and McClure paints a depressing picture. He embellishes it further with a splattering of characters speaking in the broad Glasgow dialect. Colourful writing which adds another dimension. Tends to sit uneasily though with the dreaming spires of Oxford and the better postcodes of London.

We're also given a potted history of Dunbar and his illustrious career to date. I sense a bit of a thread with previous Dunbar novels but this is the first that I've read and it's certainly a stand-alone novel in its own right. When knee-deep in clues there's a great line where Dunbar shares a favourite adage with a colleague which is Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead. This is a novel in the good old-fashioned tradition of storytelling, albeit set very much in modern times. I would happily read the other books in the series. I gobbled this one up in two sittings. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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

If this book appeals then try Critical by Robin Cook.

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