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by David Lawrence
Thomas Dunne Books, May 2004
448 pages
ISBN: 0312327102

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book took a while to convince me -- but once it sunk its teeth into me, it sure as hell wasn't letting go.

Ostensibly it's a police procedural with Detective Sergeant Stella Mooney as its focus. Naturally she comes equipped with a complex personal life and a drink problem. And it's not the deepest characterisation you'll ever find either -- neither of Stella nor of long-term partner George or of handsome journalist John Delaney. Stella, the girl from the dog-rough council estate who becomes a copper, is surprisingly under-drawn for a main character. And when it comes to her two love rivals, you won't know much more about either of them by the end than you knew at the beginning

But don't let this put you off if you think it sounds cliched or unsatisfactory . . . Lawrence is one hell of a writer and will keep you hooked. His style takes some getting used to; it's almost throwaway and slightly distant and distracted. The action unfolds in a series of very short scenes. Lawrence is apparently an experienced scriptwriter, and it shows. But where he has a promising career as a novelist waiting is in his setting. The pubs, estates and back streets of London are brought to sprawling, teeming life in THE DEAD SIT ROUND IN A RING.

The book opens with four people being found dead -- two men and two women sitting in a ring. It soon becomes apparent that one of them is not related to the other three, and that he died differently from the others. From here, as the police seek the man's identity, Stella is catapulted into the world of gang warfare which has its tentacles in Eastern Europe

And the book has one of the creepiest, most evil villains I've come across in a while. Ivo Peric, the Serbian hitman, brings real menace to the pages, and there's a tremendous denouement as Stella tracks him down.

THE DEAD SIT ROUND IN A RING is not a page-turner in the traditional sense, and is actually quite slow-moving. But its cinematic quality and the appeal of its flawed heroine faced by all too real problems make it worth reading. A second book in the series is on the way, and I'm intrigued to see where Lawrence will take Stella next.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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