This is the third M R Hall novel about Coroner Jenny Hall - and this is by far the best to date. When we first meet Jenny Cooper (the Bristol Coroner) is on her way to the scene of an appalling tragedy in the village of Blackstone Ley. A house has burned to the ground killing the three members of one family inside. Foul play is suspected, but for some inexplicable reason the police investigation is quickly closed, and Jenny is determined to find out why. As happened in the previous novels she soon finds herself in danger, because she likes to step outside the normal call of duty for a coroner.
Initially the case seems cut and dried - on the face of it it appears that the fire was started deliberately by Ed Morgan, one of the victims, as a way of getting back at Kelly Hart. He leaves a message for Kelly, his surviving wife, telling her that no matter what she will never find their young son who was not in the fire and who is still missing. But somewhere in the back of Jenny's mind there is something troubling her. What provoked Ed to start the fire? Were others involved, and why were some of the other inhabitants in the village reluctant say anything? Ten years prior to this event a young girl was abducted and was never seen again. Were the two events connected in some way.
There are some violent and unpleasant scenes in the story - all of which add to the mounting tension. There is a more human side to all this as well as we learn more about Jenny's complicated love life, and at times the stress of her job and her nerves begin to catch up with her. The story had me captivated from start to finish, and the ending came as a total surprise to me as I am sure it will to all who read it. Well done, M R Hall - and when can we expect the next book in the Jenny Cooper series?
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