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by Maureen Carter
Creme de la Crime, August 2005
304 pages
ISBN: 0954763467

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Detective Sergeant Bev Morriss has got a gob on her. It's got her into trouble before and it does so again at the start of DEAD OLD as she puts both feet squarely in it with her new boss. So she's not at all happy at being pushed into the background as the glory-seeking new Detective Inspector constantly gives her a hard time.

Bev's out of step with her colleagues, including lover Oz, when it comes to the latest case for West Midlands police. Most people are assuming that the murder of retired GP Sophia Carrington is down to the teenage toerags who are beating up old people. But Bev reckons the bizarre murder, where daffodils were stuffed in the dead woman's mouth, has got to be personal and not random.

DEAD OLD is the second in the series featuring Bev Morriss. The first, WORKING GIRLS, was a bit on the slow side, and the new book could have taken some editing here and there when the backchat threatens to overwhelm the action.

But I like what I read from Maureen Carter. She has a sparky, confrontational writing style which feels right at home in the gritty, urban setting of Britain's second city. She's well ahead of the likes of Judith Cutler and Chris Collett on both action and storytelling -- I felt a real part of the story as it moved from grotty housing estates to the bustle of the police station.

Generally Carter handles her plot and characters confidently, shifting between Bev, Oz, Detective Supt Bill Byford (who has worries of his own) and various lowlife, with only a couple of points of view glitches. There are some great little cameos as well, with various colleagues and members of the public wandering in and out without overwhelming the story.

The friction between Bev and the DI gets a touch tiresome, though, particularly given Carter milked that angle in WORKING GIRLS with the previous incumbent. And there's more than a strong hint that we'll see more of that angle in future books . . .

Carter's biggest strength is her relaxed storytelling, with sharp asides and throwaway lines. And many writers would sell their first born for the ability to create such a distinctive 'voice' in a main character. Bev is off the page and into the reader's face as she is with the villains.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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