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by Lesley Horton
Orion, December 2006
352 pages
10.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752868292

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE HOLLOW CORE is another addition to Lesley Horton's very edgy series, set in Yorkshire. She's one of the few English writers willing to grapple with the problems of race, religion and national identity in crime fiction.

Her books never make easy reading, and this latest is no exception. As you read and take in the issues spilling out of the book, including domestic abuse, arranged marriages, pushy community leaders, teenage pregnancy and family loyalty, you just know that these incidents are ones Horton has come across in her previous life as a schoolteacher, a volunteer for Victim Support and someone who's run an educational unit for pregnant schoolgirls.

The book is full of family secrets. Dianne Ingleby, a seemingly respectable middle-aged woman, is shot in a car park on the way home from a birthday outing. Her husband and daughter aren't overly co-operative, and the water is muddied further when police discover that Maurice Ingleby is rumoured to be funding the far-right British National Party.

Meanwhile, the wife of trainee DC Parvez Miah is found badly beaten. Parvez's father is a big noise in the Muslim community and seems determined to cover up what's happening in his household.

DI John Handford is feeling the pressure from all sides. And it looks like he's going to miss out on a dream promotion to the new Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, as his DCI seems determined to hang on to him at all costs. And Handford's sidekick, DS Khalid Ali, seems semi-detached, as he has his own personal problems to contend with.

The book seems uncannily topical now, as Britain grapples with the issues of integration and national identity. And Horton knows there are no easy answers.

This isn't the best in the series, mainly because the characters are a bit on the thin side you never care much about the Ingleby family, the Victim Support woman who blocks the enquiry is downright infuriating, and the low-life are all too one-dimensional. Handford remains an honest and single-minded presence, though, and Ali isn't as unbending and sanctimonious as in previous books.

I won't say I exactly enjoy reading Horton, as her world is an uncomfortable one, and horribly realistic to real life. But these are important books that push the genre into areas where other writers seem scared to venture.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2006

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