The Disappeared by M.R. Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the problems with sequels is that authors are bound by choices they made in the previous book(s) of a series. Jenny Cooper is a District Coroner, she has serious psychological and emotional problems that had resulted in a breakdown in the past, she is chemically dependent, and she is strongly driven to right the wrongs. The first book in the M.R. Hall’s series featuring Jenny Cooper, “The Coroner”, is very good (four stars from me). The threads of the plot in that novel nicely mesh with Ms. Cooper’s psychological portrait, and her fight for justice against corporate greed is shown realistically and with passion.
Mr. Hall’s “The Disappeared” is not as good as the first book. The main premises of the plot do not fit the bounds set by the author in the previous book; they are no longer believable. First, the premise that a District Coroner would embark on a crusade against the government, based only on sympathy for the mother of a young Muslim man who had disappeared several years ago, is rather fantastic. Second, the coroner plays role of a detective for a substantial part of the book. This is not likely at all, and probably not quite legal. But then believability is not required of thrillers. Maybe I am too demanding.
In “The Coroner” Ms. Cooper fought against obstruction of justice caused by corporate greed. In “The Disappeared” she fights against the obstruction of justice caused by the government security agencies that are concerned with potential terrorist activity by extremist Muslims. The plot is complicated and, excluding the improbability of the coroner’s role in it, quite well developed. Large portions of the action take place in the courtroom, during the inquest into the disappearance, so the novel is, in a sense, a mix of a mystery, a thriller, and a courtroom drama. The ending is, thankfully, less action-packed than in the first novel. Writing is very good, and the deeply flawed Ms. Cooper is portrayed vividly.
Three and three-quarter stars.
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