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by Maureen Carter
Creme de la Crime, September 2004
352 pages
ISBN: 0954763408

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Poor old Birmingham. It's the UK's second city and it gets a lousy press when it comes to books and TV. It's a bit harsh to be remembered for kitsch classic soap opera Crossroads, famed for its rocky sets and cardboard acting.

Maureen Carter is one of very few crime writers to set a book in the city. Judith Cutler has used Birmingham as a backdrop for her two series, but I've never warmed to her heavy-handed narrative and clunky dialogue. Carter, though, can do dialogue -- and also captures impeccably the speech patterns of that notorious Brummie accent (note to non-Brits: hold your nose and speak in a monotone -- and before any natives come after me with a big stick, I'm from the area!)

WORKING GIRLS is dark and gritty. It features DS Bev Morriss who finds herself investigating the murder of a 15-year-old girl who has been dumped in a park. Michelle Lucas was a teenage prostitute, so Bev's search for the killer takes her straight down to street level amidst the hookers, pimps and scummy clients.

In a lot of ways there's not an awful lot new here -- Bev has the usual sexist meathead colleagues to deal with, she gets far too close to her work, and the femjep towards the end is a genre cliche. But generally I liked what I read. Carter's writing has energy and bounce, as befits a journalist, and she creates some convincing characters around Bev, including next-door neighbour Mave, wonderfully described as 'Joan Collins on income support, out of Oxfam', and very cute colleague Detective Constable Ozzie Khan.

There are some weird layout glitches where I wasn't sure if a section had finished or not, and the book could have done with a touch tighter hand on the editing to move it along a bit. But what are those gripes between friends . . . WORKING GIRLS is an exciting debut novel, both for Carter and for new British publishing house Creme de la Crime.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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