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by Chris Collett
Piatkus, December 2006
320 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0749937149

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

WRITTEN IN BLOOD is the third in Chris Collett's series to feature West Midlands cop Tom Mariner. But if you're expecting a bog-standard police procedural, you won't get one here, as Mariner, never the best of team players, goes into maverick mode.

Collett loads on the plot elements but keeps them under fairly tight control. The book opens with a triple murder, followed by a bombing and then the discovery of a woman's body down the sewers.

Mariner, who narrowly misses being injured in the bomb blast, is traumatised by what he sees as he helps dig out survivors and bodies. And then his already tricky private life goes off in a totally unexpected direction. He's also having to deal with Special Branch lurking around, and the fact that there may be corruption in high places.

Where WRITTEN IN BLOOD scores above the others in a solid series is by really progressing Mariner's character. In the previous books he's seemed a bit one-dimensional. But here his relationship with Anna has reached a crossroads and it's never totally clear, especially given his scrambled thinking during the book, which way he will travel.

As a result Mariner pretty much fills the screen and colleagues such as Tony Knox and about to retire DCI Jack Coleman take a back seat for most of the book. And it's here that Collett does back herself into a corner. Most of the book is told through Mariner's eyes, but occasionally she brings in Anna or Knox. And at the end, with a chase against the clock, it's not always clear who the main storyteller is.

Collett's previous books have been anchored firmly in Birmingham, England's second city. This time around there's a lot of belting down the motorway/railway line to London as Mariner seeks to unravel the mysteries engulfing his private and occasionally professional life.

WRITTEN IN BLOOD is a good page-turner, although I think you'll guess whodunit well ahead of Mariner, who seems to miss generous clues strewn in his path. I could have lived with some more drama and tension in those early bombing scenes, while the ending, already problematic from the point of view sense, appears to have wandered in from another book.

Collett is always worth reading, although I admit to being a little nervous about where the series will go next, thanks to the appearance at the end of what I hope won't be a hackneyed character.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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