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by Michael Robotham
Sphere, October 2009
400 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0751542040

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Michael Robotham is five books into a loosely-linked series where former cop Vincent Ruiz and psychologist Joe O'Loughlin are recurring characters. In BOMBPROOF Ruiz, who at one point looked like the oldest cop in the universe, is now retired and celebrating his 62nd birthday.

He's in the background, though, for much of this book which is Sami Macbeth's story. Sami has just come out of prison after being in the wrong place at the wrong time when police raided a van he was a passenger in. Now people reckon he's a star safe-cracker. Sam, though, just wants to play his guitar and be in a band – and to be with his sister Nadia. Except, she's gone missing.

BOMBPROOF is Sami's shambling tale to track Nadia down, which gets him embroiled in a terrorist scare. And it just snowballs from there, as police and assorted low lifes pursue him round London.

Robotham's a cracking storyteller as a rule, but BOMBPROOF never really enthused me. The main problem is Sami. Having an ordinary bloke as your hero is fine – if you make the reader care about him. But a writer's got his work cut out if said ordinary bloke is basically a sad loser with not much to recommend him. And we don't see enough of Nadia to care much for her, despite some horribly vivid scenes later on.

Ruiz has never totally convinced me either, and in BOMBPROOF Robotham runs into that perennial problem for the writer with an amateur sleuth – how do you get them investigating without the reader thinking you've had to contort through some uncomfortable hoops. Ruiz has a very tenuous link to Sami, and also trades on his former police contacts. But the fact he's often not the main focus tells you what you need to know.

Technically there are some glitches as well. Robotham has always written in the present tense. It's an affectation I don’t usually care for, but in the previous books I got so caught up that I stopped noticing. I didn't here, though – and early on Robotham paints himself into some clunky grammatical constructions when he has to use flashbacks. Several times I had to re-read a paragraph to make sure I'd got the sense of it.

BOMBPROOF moves along at a good pace and it's certainly not a stinker. It never quite pulled me in or convinced me, though, and it's also a long way behind the rest in what's a usually reliable series.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2009

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