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by M.R. Hall
Macmillan, January 2009
450 pages
10 GBP
ISBN: 0230709842

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is an extremely well written book, except for one extremely sloppy error, which could have been eliminated by a quick visit to the author's Phriendly Phamily Pharmacist. As some people may know, book reviewing is my hobby, but I am a pharmacist in real life. Thus, to see an egregious error repeatedly proclaimed throughout a novel is, for me, sheer anathema. Mr Hall, you may be a barrister, but I've no doubt the chemist on the corner would have been very happy to help you. We are, on the whole, a helpful lot, even when inundated with prescriptions and would no doubt hate to see an otherwise useful author condemned to ruin his own work simply because of one avoidable error. Temazepam is an hypnotic, i.e. it puts people to sleep. It is not used as an antidepressant, i.e. to treat "nerves". The number of temazepams the coroner of the title sinks in this opus would have a horse snoring gently in perpetuity.

Jenny Cooper, newly appointed coroner, is herself in a fragile state of mind. Her former husband is a serial philanderer, with a taste for young women and Jenny must continually cope with both his succession of women younger than herself, and his having custody of their son.

Jenny's predecessor died of a heart attack. Apparently he was not too assiduous in following up some cases, perhaps out of too great a sensitivity toward the survivors of tragedy. Nonetheless, Jenny feels that at least two cases involving the deaths of young people bear a closer look.

Quite apart from any political aspects of the cases in which Jenny is interested, there is the cooperation - or otherwise - of her own assistant, Alison. Why is Alison's loyalty to Marshall so great and to what lengths would she go in order to protect his good name?

Then there is the journalist, Tara Collins. She, it is, who is particularly interested in having Jenny investigate various things - up to and including Marshall's own demise - and generally intruding herself onto Alison's attention.

Were it not for the glaring temazepam error, I would have enjoyed this book. I thought the characterisation was quite good, as was the plot structure. Of course, one would expect the legal aspects of the book to be accurate, from a man who made his living from the law The dialogue, too, was quite convincing.

If Hall gets around to writing another novel, I shall be quite interested in reading it. I just hope he makes the effort to get his facts straight.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, December 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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