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by Maureen Carter
Creme de la Crime, June 2007
304 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 0955158966

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Our last sighting of DS Bev Morriss in BABY LOVE was a horrifying one with a vicious attack guaranteed to turn her life upside down. In Maureen Carter's latest book starring the mouthy Birmingham cop, things are not what you'd call good for our beloved Bev.

She's still trying to deal with the aftermath of the rape, and isn't terribly enamoured of the shrink she's been sent to. Oz Khan, her partner in more ways than one, has got his promotion and is off to London to join the Metropolitan Police. Oz's replacement seems more interested in his grub than chasing criminals. And Bev's boss, Detective Supt Bill Byford, has other things on his mind as two of his former colleagues are found dead. What seem like accidental deaths soon start to look very suspicious.

HARD TIME is built around the abduction of a child and the police search for the kidnapper. But Carter manages what many writers can't, and juggles several equally enticing sub-plots with great panache.

This is a series that just gets better and better. Carter knows her characters inside-out, and makes sure that in each outing there is something to advance them. And she paints her characters in shades – at several points you'll even find yourself feeling sorry for Bev's bete noir, Detective Inspector Mike Powell! She's great at dialogue as well, which really crackles off the page and ensures you hear Bev and the rest very clearly in your head.

As the case gets more complex and muddied, and other enquiries criss-cross, you get a very strong picture of what it must be like to be a police officer, with the frustrations that go with the job.

The book's only slight weakness comes near the end when Bev indulges in a real genre cliché to resolve the case that might well have you sighing or rolling your eyes. Carter just about gets away with it, though, because of the hard work she's done setting up this believable character for you.

HARD TIME ends, as well, with another cliff-hanger. But there are play-fair cliff-hangers and pitching the book against the wall cliff-hangers. This one is the former – and does its job in that I am now speculating happily what will happen to Bev on several fronts in the next book.

Some enterprising TV producer should pick up HARD TIME without delay as it's got the lot – fantastic characters, a strong setting and water-tight plotting. The book is Carter's best yet, but go back and read the others first to get the most out of this outstanding series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, May 2007

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