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by Chris Collett
Piatkus, April 2005
320 pages
ISBN: 0749907207

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

OK. I know this is a tad harsh, but my enjoyment of Chris Collett's BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS was marred by a single error that will only be spotted by anyone familiar with the train system of Birmingham.

Snag is, it's a glaring error on which the plot pivots -- hence why I'm being suitably cryptic and grumpy about it. And given Collett apparently lives in Birmingham, she should have known, unless she never travels by train. Or she could have done what I did -- contact Centro's press office and get a response within half an hour from a very efficient press officer.

That aside, BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS, like its predecessor THE WORM IN THE BUD, is competent crime fiction that lacks that certain je ne sais quoi to push it into the higher echelons.

In this outing Detective Inspector Tom Mariner gets involved with the disappearance of two youngsters on his patch. The incidents look to be unrelated, as Yasmin Akram is the bright grammar school girl with respectable middle-class Muslim parents, whilst Ricky Skeet comes from a council estate.

Mariner's media-savvy new boss takes him off Ricky's disappearance and insists he focuses on Yasmin. The girl's parents have been the target of a racist right-wing group, but as he investigates it becomes apparent that Yasmin had a lot of secrets.

What Collett does do well is to capture Birmingham's suburbs with their mysterious hidden areas. Her plotting is adequate, although the ending is tied up far too neatly.

The characterisation, too, is, well, OK. Mariner himself is a fairly shallow creation, but there's a promising supporting cast around him, including family liaison officer Jamilla Begum. We don't see much of Jamie, the autistic young man on whom THE WORM IN THE BUD focussed. But Mariner is an item with Jamie's sister Anna.

Actually, we could have done with a little bit of recapping from the first book. Collett seems to assume we will remember disgraced copper Tony Knox, who was one of my favourite characters from the first book, when in fact those new on board would appreciate some back history to make sense of Knox's actions.

So, BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS is one of those perfectly readable mid-division books with which to while away an afternoon. Shame about the research, though. I always knew all those hours spent travelling the Cross-City line would come in useful somehow!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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