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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but fantastic supernatural thriller
The world is in the grip of a terrible recession that has wrought havoc on society. Cuts in public services have been ruthless, unemployment is at record levels; crime endemic, and the remaining economy is in thrall to a secretive company known as The Bank. Despite the soaring crime stats even the police have not been spared a cut in their resources, and officers have...
Published on 4 April 2010 by Bāki

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid thriller, not very supernatural though!
DI Cass Jones is caught in the middle of two horrific murder cases: the shooting of two young boys in what appears to be a botched gangland shooting, and a serial killer who 'puts down' women as though they are animals. When Cass' brother Christian is suspected of the murder-suicide of his family, Cass cannot believe it, and things look even worse when evidence that...
Published on 9 Jun 2010 by AR


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but fantastic supernatural thriller, 4 April 2010
By 
Bāki (London - UK) - See all my reviews
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The world is in the grip of a terrible recession that has wrought havoc on society. Cuts in public services have been ruthless, unemployment is at record levels; crime endemic, and the remaining economy is in thrall to a secretive company known as The Bank. Despite the soaring crime stats even the police have not been spared a cut in their resources, and officers have improvised new ways to manage the crime lords.

D.I. Cass Jones is one such officer, and regardless of the difficult times he's a good copper - that is, he's good at his job. His moral character is far more questionable: he's a drug user, an adulterer, and he's carrying a huge burden of guilt from a past incident that went wrong whilst working deep undercover. If all this wasn't bad enough, he's currently investigating the murder of two school kids gunned down in an apparent gang related mishap, and a serial killer dubbed the Man of Flies is leaving a trail of dead women across London. Then to top it all off Cass learns that his brother is dead along with his brother's wife and child, and Cass himself is somehow implicated in their murder. All of these events are seemingly related, and they all point to the mysterious Bank.

This is a gritty thriller, that is part crime novel and part supernatural thriller, mixed with a dash of conspiracy. When I first started reading this book I had difficulties with it. It took me a while to care about what was happening, and I didn't immediately warm to D.I. Cass Jones. I found the depiction of London and the police at times clichéd and unconvincing. There were slight errors in the terminology that niggled as well. SO10? The unit has been called SCD10 for several years, Medical Examiner visiting a crime scene? What happened to The Coroner's Officer? Then there's unconvincing dialogue such as a criminal profiler calling the D.I. a "fed" - really?

Just when I was ready to give this up as the work of someone who'd watched too many episodes of The Bill, Cass is informed about the death of his brother, and the story springs to life. At this point (around page 80) Pinborough seems to find her feet, and her evident storytelling ability kicks in. In fact from this point until the conclusion, the book is a great read. I read all of the remaining book, a little over 300 pages, straight through in one sitting. I then enjoyed the deepening intrigue, and the sense of mystery that pervades the story. In many ways this is a really well plotted book, and the pacing is perfect for the last two-thirds.

There are several threads in this story, which is the first of a trilogy. As these threads began to unravel, I found them captivating and I really wanted to know what linked them together. The supernatural elements in the story, although sometimes creepy, are mostly understated. This first book of The Dog Faced Gods is definitely more crime than horror. Despite this, I really enjoyed the supernatural elements that were present, and for me Pinborough's prose appears to show more confidence in these elements than in some of the crime aspects.

After a slow start and aside from a few quibbles, which I mostly forgot when the story got going, I found this be a really good read. I don't recall ever changing my opinion on a book quite so decisively in recent times as I did with this. Perhaps it's because I'm someone intimately familiar with many of the settings in this book, that my initial reaction was to be somewhat unconvinced. As the story progressed I not only reversed my opinion, I was hooked. I also warmed to D.I. Cass Jones despite his flaws. The book really is enjoyable, and the conclusion is both satisfying and a great teaser for the next volume in the trilogy. With some excellent ideas running through it, A Matter of Blood is definitely worth checking out for fans of both horror and crime fiction, and those who just enjoy a great story.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good urban fantasy procedural crime novel - why the sci-fi?, 28 Jun 2010
By 
R. M. Lindley - See all my reviews
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In a Matter of Blood debut author Sarah Pinborough has written a very good police procedural with some urban fantasy overtones. It is a shame she spoils it with some ill-judged science fiction.

Our anti-hero is Cass Jones, murder squad detective, drug user, adulterer (with his brother's wife, no less) and with a HIDDEN DARK SECRET relating to a undercover job early in his career. So far, so cliched. But actually the cases he is involved in, the accidental murder of two children in a gangland shooting, a serial killer leaving fly eggs in the eyes of his victims and a familial murder-suicide, are all gripping and well thought out. Peripheral characters are also generally well judged and rounded. As the novel progresses, and things go from bad to worse for Cass, the cases appear connected, and come to satisfying conclusion.

This could have a been a straight up crime novel, but Pinborough includes allusions to Paradise Lost in the text, a Man of Flies and characters implicated in the killings appear to be far more than they appear. And Cass keeps on seeing a dead relative, and a funny glow coming from people's eyes....

And so we delve into urban fantasy (this is NOT horror). Darker than Dresden and more English than American Gods, the supernatural element here does look like it has a lot of milage, although one of the key mystery figures, "Mr Bright", does seem too obviously named. What spoiled the book for me was the unnecessary setting in the near future, making this a bizarre sci-fi hybrid. The world economy has collapsed, the welfare state has been dismantled, HIV has a new strain and the police are paid bonuses by gangsters not to catch them.

Oh,and the world finances are now run by The Bank, created by Bill Gates and Richard Branson.

Yes, that Richard Branson. It even has a branch called Virginity.

Why? The book did not need this. Even now, a few months after writing, it looks hopelessly out of date, and all the major plot elements function perfectly well without the near future described: policemen still take bribes, major banks still exert undue influence and people still get ill. For me, this spoilt an otherwise excellent book, and hence the 4 stars.

I would still recommend A Matter of Blood, and I'll certainly read the rest of the series, but hopefully Pinborough will be able to resist that kitchen sink impulse in the future...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid thriller, not very supernatural though!, 9 Jun 2010
By 
AR (UK) - See all my reviews
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DI Cass Jones is caught in the middle of two horrific murder cases: the shooting of two young boys in what appears to be a botched gangland shooting, and a serial killer who 'puts down' women as though they are animals. When Cass' brother Christian is suspected of the murder-suicide of his family, Cass cannot believe it, and things look even worse when evidence that implicates him is found at the scene. The further Cass delves into the three cases, the more he is convinced they are part of a conspiracy involving The Bank, a major company that arose from the ashes of a global economic meltdown. Can Cass find out the truth whilst also dealing with his own personal demons?

This is billed as a supernatural crime thriller, which is what most appealed to me about it, however the supernatural element is very minor and mostly implied. Cass repeatedly sees the ghost of his brother, but the main supernatural element involves Mr Solomon and Mr Bright, two men who may have something to do with both The Bank and the murders. It is never stated exactly what these men are (gods of some kind seems an option), but they seem to have certain powers - Solomon the ability to control flies (!!) - and are connected to Cass' family. Cass' family all claimed to have been able to see a mysterious golden light in people's eyes 'The Glow', but this too is not fully explained. I understand this book is the first in a trilogy, so perhaps these ideas will be further explored then, because otherwise they were a bit of a waste of time.

Cass is a strong central character for a thriller series, with all the usual personal problems: crumbling marriage, affair with a colleague, troubled past as an undercover officer, dead family. As 'The Glow' implies, there may also be more to him, and I would be interested to learn a bit more about it.

There are plenty of plot threads here, many of which tie together nicely, and although I didn't find this a page-turner, it was still a pretty solid thriller.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Could have been good, wasn't., 9 Sep 2014
By 
James C. Foreman (Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
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I’d had high hopes for this, following a recommendation, but I was quite disappointed.

The book was populated by a coachload direct from Central Casting. There’s an overweight criminal profiler who is Hamish Macbeth with the serial numbers filed off. There’s a care worn cop as the protagonist, with a dark past that’s only hinted at until half way through the book. There’s a cop from America, although that only seems to be so that the book is more saleable to Americans: he doesn’t talk or behave anyway different to the other characters, who all basically have the same voice. And despite constant injunctions that our hero “looks up” and sees the real truth, nothing is ever really revealed. (Apart from the CSI-style miraculous enhancement of video footage, where CCTV cameras are capable of focusing on individual cufflinks across a street.)

The plot; well, it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a grittily realistic police procedural? (There’s constant effing and blinding.) Is it a ghost story? Is it horror? Is it a piece of product placement for the Folkestone Tourism Board? Is it a piece of misogynist rage-wank? (I think there’s only one woman in the entire story who doesn’t end up dead, defiled or drugged up – mostly all three – so I had to keep reminding myself that Ms Pinborough wasn’t a man. Maybe she thought this was a good way to keep up with the Joneses.)

The author is an ex-Torchwood writer, so associated with Doctor Who, just like Ben Aaronovitch and Paul Corning, but whereas they delivered stories with a bit of humour (Aaronovitch more so, but even the horrors of London Falling have the inspired lunacy of a wicked witch who has cursed West Ham Football Club) this is just grim throughout.

That makes the gaps in the plot ever more annoying. If the cliched characters were played up more camply, things might be more forgivable, but there’s no credit here to spend. The eventual twists don’t make much sense (there’s a confession near the end that makes no sense at all, because supposedly it rescues a case when nobody is implicated at all) and at the end, after all the main characters are obliterated, the whole thing is left wide open for the second volume.

So it’s depressing, inconsistent in tone, lacking well-drawn or likeable characters, a proper plot or good dialogue. Not a great book, then.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A horrific story of pure noirish delight!, 25 July 2014
This review is from: A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY) (Paperback)
Rob’s Critical Book Review: “A Matter of Blood,” by Sarah Pinborough

Though I’m sure to upset some authors and publishers who, understandably, want five-star reviews, I’ve my own definition of the five-star system.

*One Star: A crime against God and man.
*Two Stars: Poor, or otherwise not ready for publication.
*Three Stars: A solid work worth the money/read.
*Four Stars: A superior, award-worthy achievement.
*Five Stars: A standard setter, a work to stand the test of time, a work to be studied and read again and again….

A horrific story of pure noirish delight!

“A Matter of Blood,” by Sarah Pinborough, an award-worthy four star book.

Sarah Pinborough’s work has been around for a while, a decade-plus, and I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying some of her novels, specifically her Dorchester work, published through Leisure. Amongst these, I’ve read:

The Hidden
The Reckoning
Breeding Ground

All three of these were courtesy of my belonging to Leisure’s Horror Book Club, where I would receive a couple of their dark fiction titles a month. Lots of great work came through this venerable pipeline, and Lady Pinborough’s stories were a welcome addition. The above listed titles were all enjoyable three star tomes, solid pieces well worth the money and the time to read.

Unfortunately, with there being a lot of fine writers and great stories, I lost track of Ms. Pinborough. Like all story addicts, I’ve a to-be-read pile that never manages to shrink. And … really? What’s the problem? I’ll read more of Pinborough later.

Later … later … later.

But, finally, I did!

"A Matter of Blood."

Shopping at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, seeing this softback’s incredible cover, its great title, its even more enticing sub-title, and then to read that it was only book one of “The Dog-Faced Gods,” I knew I had to have it. But even then, that damnable to-be-read pile interfered, and it was some months before I got to it.

But I did.

And WOW!

With the previous three novels that I had read, again, I had always been consistently entertained, but what a treat it was to read a book that displayed a massive jump in prose and storytelling. No, the comment isn’t fair, and no, this so-called jump isn’t new (if it’s even real), not with it now being 2014 and this tale coming out back in 2010.

But it was new to me.

Check out the blurb on the back of the book:

The recession that is gripping the world has left it exhausted, and deep in debt to The Bank, a secretive company run by the world’s wealthiest men.

Detective Inspector Cass Jones has quite enough on his plate: two schoolboys have been massacred on his patch, and he’s also tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide, and Cass is implicated in their deaths. When he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, the DI goes on the hunt himself—only to discover that all three cases are linked.

As Jones examines his own family history, three questions keep reapearing: What disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?

Intriguing?

Yes.

But even this tantalizing bit doesn’t do the book justice. And, frankly speaking, all too often, I find these things in reverse, where a book’s actual story doesn’t live up to such back-cover teasers. Such is the power of "A Matter of Blood," a book which far surpassed my expectations.

Of a truth, "A Matter of Blood" is so good, that with this first offering of a trilogy, Sarah Pinborough, in my mind, is now right up there with the greats in this style of story, my list of writing gods whom I consider to be masters of what they do, such as Conrad Williams, Neil Cross, Michael Marshall Smith, and Tom Piccirilli.

In closing, “A Matter of Blood” is a cross-genre work to please audiences across the board: sci-fi, fantasy, and certainly horror. The magic, in part—if such things can be defined—is in the way that "A Matter of Blood" subtly blends these elements under the over-riding thread of well-crafted noir.

And this is just book one!

Read it and see what I mean.

If the sequels meet or exceed this opener’s high standards, down the road, this trilogy might well turn out to be one of Pinborough’s master works.

All my best,

Rob M. Miller

A side note to the author:

Dear Ms. Pinborough,

In 2010 the Stoker winner for best novel was Peter Straub for “A Dark Matter,” which might well be a perfect novel. If one has to lose, it couldn’t be done under better circumstances. Fortunately, such awards, as subjective as they are, do not minimize the merits of other works, and for those in-the-know, there really is no such thing as “losing,” least not for the tales we love. In the case of “A Matter of Blood,” for this renewed fan of your work, you hit one out of the park.

No, I haven’t yet read parts II and III, but will, and with enthusiasm. After all, I want to see what you’ve done … where you’ve gone with DI Jones, and what you’ve put down on the page. Reading other reviews, it’s apparent, as always, that people have their differing tastes, but for this reader, with this book, you’ve made something … darkly wonderful. Perhaps this novel was easy to write. Maybe you were tapped into your muse and things just flowed. In my imagination, however, you went outside of your box, took risks, stretched. In my fantasies, the work might have even scared you. Perhaps you wondered: Oh, my God, this might be good … might even be great. Who knows but you. And it’s no one’s business but yours.

Save for this: Whatever your process, compass, method, or manner of teeth-pulling, keep doing what you do.

Please.

All my best,

A renewed fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely chilling, 16 Jun 2010
By 
A. L. Rutter "Floor to Ceiling Books" (Portsmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the first novel in The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy, and rather defies classification by genre. It could fit quite comfortably in the crime section of a bookstore, or the horror section, and the dystopian near-future setting where The Bank controls governments places it squarely on the sci-fi shelves. The result is a novel that scares and thrills in equal measure. Sarah Pinborough acknowledges the influences of Michael Marshall Smith in his crime thriller guise as Michael Marshall, and I could definitely see echoes of his sparse yet pulse-pounding style in the way Pinborough sets out the events in A Matter of Blood.

The novel concerns Cass Jones, a rather difficult character to like but one you can't help sympathise with. He follows in the footsteps of all those police characters in detective novels - slightly maverick, working in shades of grey rather than idealistic black and white, always the best person to get into the psyche of the killer they're chasing. He could be accused of being rather cliche, and does come across as such while the novel works within the boundaries of being a straight up crime novel - as soon as the dark supernatural events start sliding onto the pages he escapes this accusation, and becomes a character we can really identify with.

The plot is not too complicated, with a nice linear structure; and Pinborough's use of chapter end cliffhangers ensures you feel a constant need to just turn the next page. I stayed up [far too] late reading this book, with a complete inability to put it down because I wanted to find out why Cass is being set up, who the Man of Flies is, and whether all three police cases are linked to the mystery of Bright and Solomon. I enjoyed the lean prose, which fleshed out the setting and the secondary characters with broad brush-strokes but didn't dwell lovingly on all the little details.

The characters are intriguing and some of them definitely leap off the page. I particularly liked DI Ramsey, another police officer who lends Cass a quiet hand, and Dr Tim Hask, the profiler brought in to try and work out who is committing the brutal murders of seemingly random women. Both of these characters had small parts in the novel overall, but really came to life with some excellent dialogue.

There are a few issues with the novel - at times the foreshadowing was extremely clumsy, and I felt as though I was being signposted too strongly away from the meat of the case. Pinborough's misdirection definitely wasn't as smooth as it could be. The supernatural elements are also added in a distinctly self-conscious manner - although I like the mystery of Bright and Solomon, I felt as though this novel would not have suffered from being non-genre rather than introducing ghosts and Gods.

The main thrust of the novel's events are wrapped up in a decent resolution, but there is definitely enough material for the remaining books in this trilogy - and I, for one, cannot wait to read them! A Matter of Blood is a cracking read, never less than thoroughly entertaining and genuinely creepy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darkness Becomes Her, 20 May 2010
By 
The Wolf (uk) - See all my reviews
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'A Matter Of Blood' is a taut, absorbing and nicely grisly
crime thriller, laced with disquieting otherworldly elements.
The narrative has already been eloquently described by
several other reviewers who have also clearly enjoyed
Sarah Pinborough's way with her dark materials.

The ghastly world she so vividly describes is full of demons of
every variety. The novel's central protagonist DI Cass Jones
has to deal with a few of his own, as well as the horrors which
lurk half-hidden in the murky corners of the labyrinthine plot.

The story takes time to hit its stride but once our interest is
engaged the story romps along. The London of a not too-far distant
future is brought to life in language which leaves the sights and
smells of the capital's seedy underbelly floating in the air in its
wake. Ms Pinborough is certainly not out to give us a cosy time!

As the book's several strands moved ever closer together I found
myself an increasingly willing victim to its macabre charms!

The denouement (which I dare not reveal!) leaves a way open for
the next two projected volumes of what promises to be a deeply
disturbing, complex and highly entertaining trilogy.

Roll on the next installment!!

Recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A gritty horror and serial killer thriller bursting with dark imagination, 10 May 2010
By 
Chris Hall "DLS Reviews" (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
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First published in 2010, British author Sarah Pinborough's novel `A Matter Of Blood' formed the first segment of `The Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy. The second book - `The Shadow Of The Soul' is due out in April 2011. Pinborough's name has already become established within the literary world, with a line of seven similarly dark novels under her belt, as well as contributions to the popular `Torchwood' series.

Set in a not-too distant gritty future, global recession has ravaged the world's economy, leaving the governments crumbling from within. One superpower dominates over this bleak horizon - a conglomerate of the world's wealthiest men, creating the financial juggernaut that is The Bank.

The police force takes to morally questionable practices, turning a blind eye to certain well respected criminal's activities in order for their insubstantial wages to be subsidised. Detective Inspector Cassius Jones is no different. The DI finds himself heading up the investigation on a mysterious serial killer than has begun plaguing the city. Not only that, but he has been lumbered with another case of a possible gang-related drive-by revenge killing gone horribly wrong.

As the DI juggles the two high profile cases, a pattern slowly begins to immerge connecting the two. The puzzling murders at the hands of a cryptic serial killer are leaving a disturbing poetry in their wake. "Nothing is sacred' is scrawled across each one of the victims chests in their own blood. And perfectly placed fly eggs are found lovingly secreted on the corpse's cold bodies. Each delicate egg miraculously undamaged.

Somehow everything is related. But the corruption of the city runs deeper through its dirt-filled veins than Cass Jones ever realised. And its about to become all too personal for the DI when his life is suddenly ripped open and dragged deep into the black abyss of this dark and twisted new world...

Pinborough combines a gritty and down-trodden serial-killer thriller with a dark piece of supernatural-esque horror fiction; creating a haunting first instalment into what promises to be a truly dark trilogy.

With stark similarities drawn from the likes of Clive Barker's imaginatively twisted horror fiction, Stuart Macbride's bleak impressions of the not too distant future and perhaps Dean R Kontiz's or Stephen Gallagher's gritty earlier work; the novel has a definite target audience in mind that thrives on such imaginatively downbeat styles of horror fiction.

Detective Inspector Cass Jones is the typical attitude-filled anti-hero that you've come to expect from such fiction. Indeed, the principal character seems to have been plucked straight out of a James Herbert novel and thrust into the chaotic maelstrom of an early Clive Barker tale.

Pinorough keeps the reader guessing for almost the entirety of the tale as to the true understanding and origins of the killer and his cruel motivations. The storyline begins as two parallel running plotlines, which in turn split off into further subplots, creating a number of initially baffling storyline branches that eventually begin to unite together once again, as the novel draws to a close.

The novel's finale plays out a clever twist ending, hammering down almost a non-stop tattoo of action until the not-altogether-explained final sequence is played out and this first novel in the trilogy is somewhat loosely wrapped up.

All in all, this first instalment into this gritty-horror trilogy delivers an oppressive storyline that seems to cling to the readers mind as the tale weaves a story of mystery and mounting suspense. Characterisation is typically downbeat, with the characters developed upon to a level that successfully captures their lives for the reader, without stodging up the flow of the storyline. The balance of supernatural horror and a serial killer crime thriller is well maintained, with just enough emphasis on each to keep the novel creeping down the carefully crafted pathway, without slipping too far down into the depths of one particular territory.

The novel runs for a total of 356 pages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "They'd drown him in blood if he let them ", 10 May 2010
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
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I approached Sarah Pinbrough's A Matter Of Blood with some trepidation having read her novel Breeding Ground and found it a ridiculous apocalyptic horror story, which was sort of what I expected to be fair, only this was poorly plotted and just plain daft. However I am now glad I did not let that experience put me off permanently as her new novel is something else all together. A truly gripping fusion of the police procedural detective novel with an aura of the supernatural A Matter Of Blood also intriguingly addresses to some small extent the global financial situation.
Detective Inspector Cass Jones is your typical womanising and hard living but dedicated and single minded detective .His marriage is shaky , his relationship with his younger brother is tenuous and he is at loggerheads with other members of the force .He is also to some degree at loggerheads with himself having a less than squeaky clean past. He also has to deal with a serial killer calling himself the "Man Of Flies " , an accidental ? drive by shooting of two schoolboys and then his brother who works for the shadowy conglomerate called "The Bank" which owns nearly everything in the Western world, shoots his family and then himself after Cass has ignored his plea's for him to get in touch.
Sarah Pinbrough's diversion away from the horror genre into something more realistic and hard-boiled suits her. It has reined in her more obtuse and fantastical proclivities and is more suited to the rhythm of her writing style . A Matter of Blood makes thrilling little plot diversions , has one or two major surprises and very rarely treads water. Okay so it made me raise an incredulous eyebrow occasionally ( and I am not referring to the stylistic leaps ) but most thrillers do.
Even better it is the first of a planned trilogy so there is more where this came from. There is a bigger more opaque and shadowy stage waiting to be revealed. Where will she take us next ? I dunno , but I cannot wait to find out.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, gripping, believable supernaturalism, 14 Nov 2010
By 
A. I. McCulloch "Andrea" (Co Durham) - See all my reviews
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This book takes some time to set the scene as we are introduced to Cass Jones, the main character, (one hesitates to say hero) but then it really takes off. This might not be the best book to read if you are feeling pessimistic about the future - the picture of the near - future it paints is chilling and depressing. Public services cut to the bare bone, crime endemic...
It's an interesting mix of genres, both fantasy/supernaturalism and tough, grounded thriller blend together, a balance of a dark normality against the bizarre.

Once the book gets going, and one accepts the variations from the norm, it really is a page-turner. The supernatural elements never veer in to wild fantasy, the gritty realism of the rest of the book makes sure of that.
Difficult to put down, unsettling, and a very good read.
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