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by Mari Hannah
Pan, November 2013
420 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0330539957

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

With the sheer volume of crime books published each year, it must get harder and harder for authors to come up with new ways of bumping people off, but Mari Hannah manages to get her second book off to a flying start in more ways than one. Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels is called to the scene of an unusual death at Hadrian's Wall. A woman appears to have fallen or been thrown - from a great height and to make matters worse, appears to have been alive when she hit the ground.

Complications come thick and fast for Daniels. Her friend and mentor, Detective Chief Superintendent Phillip Bright asks her to take on the case of a missing girl, the daughter of an old friend of his. The resemblance between the missing girl and the as yet unidentified body near Hadrian's Wall leads Daniels to the conclusion that they have found the identity of the victim, but appearances can be deceptive, as Daniels quickly discovers.

Developing interesting characters must be as challenging as finding the plots, but again, Hannah does well with her main character. Daniels conforms to the 'norm' in crime fiction in that events in her past are still casting a dark shadow on her life, but manages to break out of that stereotype to become a competent, interesting woman in what is still very much a man's world, both in reality and in fiction. Her broken relationship with psychologist Jo Soulsby complicates her life but doesn't overwhelm the central storyline, the hunt for a missing girl who bears an uncanny resemblance to the dead woman. Daniels is convinced the two cases, and a rash of missing women all with the same characteristics are related, but working out which leads are genuine and which are red herrings is as problematic for her as it is for the reader.

There were some elements of the plot that I jibbed at slightly. Daniels seems to spend an inordinate amount of time waiting for a local geology expert to contact her rather than simply picking up the phone and ringing the British Geological Survey in Nottingham who could no doubt have answered her query, and as a caver I found a lengthy incarceration in cold water more than slightly hard to believe. Hypothermia sets in with alarming rapidity when you're in cold, running water with a hefty draught.

But despite that, I was thoroughly drawn in by both the characters and the plot and enjoyed the way SETTLED BLOOD progresses rapidly to a strong conclusion. This is not a predictable book, which makes a very nice change. I hope Hannah makes more use of DCI Kate Daniels in the future.

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, December 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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