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by M R Hall
Mantle, January 2013
320 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0230752039

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When Bristol Coroner Jenny Cooper investigates the death of man who apparently committed suicide by jumping from a motorway bridge, she soon becomes convinced that there is more to his death than meets the eye. The age-old question needs to be answered. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Jenny isn't satisfied with the answers to the questions that she starts to ask. At the same time, she's also digging deeply into the events surrounding the death of a friend's thirteen year old daughter from a deadly strain of meningitis.

The more people try to block Jenny's investigations, the more determined she becomes to uncover the truth. Her search for information takes her to Oxford and the deaths that seem to dog her footsteps only serve to convince her that underneath a complex web of lies are the answers she's seeking.

This is the first book of M R Hall's that I've read, but despite that, it certainly wasn't difficult to get into the series. I was drawn to the book because of its setting in my home town of Bristol, although Jenny has little in common with some of her real life predecessors of my acquaintance. She's fragile, has a troubled past and a near-addiction to the anti-anxiety tablets that help her hold her life together in the face of mounting pressures. Her relationship with her assistant, Alison, is strangely formal, despite the closeness of their working life, and Jenny clearly keeps people at arm's length.

THE CHOSEN DEAD is a mix of police procedural and amateur sleuth, although the book stays out of cosy territory. I did find it somewhat hard to suspend disbelief at times, as Jenny's investigation started to border on the obsessive, especially in the face of the sheer volume of work that would have been piling up in her frequent absences from the office. The method of reporting on the various inquest hearings that crop up in the book is a convenient way of making information dumps palatable and does go some way to cut down on the inevitable 'villain spills all' ending so beloved of the majority of crime writers, but it's still a device that should be used sparingly.

This is both a readable and a competent book. Whilst the characters and the dialogue don't exactly fizz off the page, it has plenty to hold a reader's interest and I'll certainly be happy to return to Jenny Cooper's office.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, November 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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