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3.0 out of 5 stars God-Faced Dog, 28 Feb 2012
This review is from: A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY) (Paperback)
Investigating the drive-by shooting of two teenagers DI Cass Jones is assigned a serial killer case. When his brother `commits suicide' Cass unearths some difficult family truths.

The Met has become an organisation more or less funded by organised crime. DI Cass is London police detective. He has an unhappy marriage and many skeletons in his cupboard. He is generally unpopular with colleagues. He is working on a drive-by shooting which seems to be a gangland hit gone wrong, when he takes over a case from an ill colleague. The victims of a serial killer are dispatched peacefully with Pentobarbitone and left serenely where they will be easily found, daubed with pseudo-religious catch-phrases. The eggs of common house flies have been carefully positioned on the corpses. Christian, Cass's brother, kills his wife and son with a shot gun before committing suicide. Cass removes Christian's laptop from the scene. Evidence is planted at Christian's house which implicates Cass and he is suspended from duty. Links between Cass's two cases emerge and they seem to be connected with the death of Christian. On the computer Cass finds files connected with The Bank, Christian's employer. The Bank was established by Bill Gate and Richard Branson to save the ordinary people of the world from economic disaster and is now the most powerful business in history.

A MATTER OF BLOOD is something of a god-headed dog's breakfast. It begins as a straight, almost dull, police thriller. Cass is such a clichéd stereotype of the standard cop-story protagonist that it beggars belief. The first third of the book is reasonably well crafted but wholly unexceptional. It reminds me of Taggart Collection [DVD]: gritty, realistic but unoriginal and dull. It lacks the oomph of many competing thrillers. This in not Val McDermid, nor Cathy Reichs. This is Pinborough and she has obviously made a decision to steer clear of violence and gore, though I can't see why, as she takes that space and fills it with stomach churning maggots, other body fluids and diseased livers. On the death of Christian, the cop story becomes supernatural horror, along the lines of James Herbert: very British. This kind of novel needs to be graphic, relentlessly graphic, but once again she takes precisely what the readers of this genre are reading it for (horror) and replaces it with psychological and circumstantial twaddle. Brian Keene has nothing to worry about.

Just as the reader is learning to accept that the cop-story has turned into a ghost story, it turns into a conspiracy theory novel along the lines of Dan Brown or Robert Shea. It is a miracle that we get to the end of the books without the Illuminati or Templars bursting onto the scene, though I am sure the Freemasons get a mention in passing, and there is always volume two of the trilogy to come. Before finally going belly-up as a cop thriller, A MATTER OF BLOOD will go through an extremely unwelcome Highlander phase, where Cass is brought to the brink of accepting his destiny as one of the immortals. Or is that The Matrix?

Having said all that, Pinborough hits some kind of a stylistic stride in the final quarter of the book and some of the points she tries to make - mainly nihilistic ones - are quite thought provoking. Her style throughout, however, is pretty anonymous and she takes too many easy ways out (dreams, visions, profilers, etc.).

Horror fans who have got their hands on it will be turned off by the semi-boring 100 pages of police story at the beginning before they get to the horror, and likewise the police story fans will be disappointed when the book turns to gothic goo in their hands. Is there any reader who dislikes the sight of blood but is quite at home with maggots and flies ad libitum?

It is interesting that most of my comparisons are with TV or Film rather than books. Pinborough has very much the `tell not show' style of screen writers, which is a big problem. I was (but shouldn't have been) surprised to see that she was one of the creators of Torchwood. A MATTER OF BLOOD in the final analysis is probably very close to Torchwood: edgy, intelligent, anodyne, wholly unoriginal and very BBC. It could easily be reincarnated as a TV series along the lines of TRUE BLOOD or Life on Mars. It is a book for 14 year olds and women with too many cats.

If I found The Shadow of the Soul (the second volume of the triology) on someone else's bookshelf or in a book exchange, I would have just enough curiosity to pick it up and read it. I am quite interested to see where she is going, even if it is only to see how badly wrong she goes. I would certainly not seek it out, nor pay full price.
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