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Friday, August 28, 2015

Gone in Seconds. A.J. Cross. Orion Books (2012)

A very enjoyable and entertaining crime story. With the discovery of human bones in a woodland near a motorway the Unsolved Crime Unit of the West Midland Police are involved in an investigation. When the remains prove to be a teenager who had gone missing five years earlier the unit start to look at the case. The investigating office in that case now leads the UCU and that creates a problem for the team. As forensic psychologist Dr Kate Hanson and the UCU team investigate they start to realise that there may more victims and a much more difficult and dangerous situation than they had realised. The story unfolds very well, the reveals are well staged and the conclusion is unexpected and very satisfying.
The cast and context are very well developed and the pressures of the investigation, professional and personal are given time and space and add strongly to the weight and grip of the story. The cast are full of vigour and life, they engage the reader and the impact of the events are demonstrated with horrible clarity. One of the strong aspects to the story is the way that A,.J. Cross shows the long term impact of unsolved crime, in particular involving the unsolved disappearance of someone, on those left behind. The significant damage done by uncertainty and guilt are powerfully drawn, the responses are different they are all taken seriously by A.J. Cross.
The investigative team are a great cast, Dr Kate Hanson is competent, profession and very committed, as well as being enjoyable spiky and slightly abrasive. With an entirely accountable confidence in her analysis, backed by a willingness to  change her mind when faced with more information, she is slightly at odds with the restrictions imposed on the time by the requirements of police work.
A.J. Cross has rung a small but effective change on the genre favourite of the less than competent police superior officer, being career minded and possessing a strong sense of the bureaucratic  importance of budgets can make a manager less flexible and more defensive that is desirable. This is a more interesting conflict that is usually developed in the genre between a team and the management.
The plot mechanics are smart and sharp, they full range of the situation emerges slowly and the threads are cleverly misleading and snake back on themselves in a very satisfactory way. They way that they are gathered together as the pressure increases on the UCU team and the pattern linking current murders and past ones becomes clearer and finally start to become frighteningly close to home is superb.  Balancing a great plot with an engaging cast and strong sympathy for those outside of the investigation that have been nearly destroyed by the crimes this is a very enjoyable read that cleverly manages a fresh look at a serial murder story.

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