A Matter Of Blood

This morning I finished reading A Matter Of Blood, the first part of Sarah Pinborough’s urban fantasy trilogy set in London. 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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