This is a superb follow-up to The Coroner (Jenny Cooper 1)
, Hall's first book which introduced the character of Jenny Cooper, the most relentless (and reckless) investigator this side of Rebus. At one level of course it's a blend of familiar tropes - the detective who won't take "no" for an answer, even when They tell her to lay off; the self-destructive detective, who can't survive without drink or pills and the faceless, vague conspiracy that must be faced down.
Yet underneath, there is powerful current of mystery about Cooper's past - what childhood events is she suppressing, which drive her (we are, none too subtly, told) to uncover identities and seek justice for the dead? (And which also drive her to panic symptoms which she grapples with through medicatiin and counselling).
I know, it sounds a lot to bear with in a simple mystery. But this isn't a simple mystery. Hill fuses these elements and produces something truly compelling - whether you're reading to try and piece Jenny's past together, or waiting for the next episode in which she lays dignity, career, or even life in the line, or whether you are intrigued by the events she's doggedly investigating.
Here, Jenny is at her best, managing her awkward, prickly relationship with Alison, her Coroner's Officer (or her awkward, prickly relationships with her boyfriend, ex husband and son) while investigating the disappearance, some years before, of two teenagers - a disappearance which seems to have pointers towards her past. It's great fun to read, and I'm glad to see that Hall has another coming up later in 2011, The Redeemed (Jenny Cooper 3)