Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Redeemed (Jenny Cooper, #3)The Redeemed by M.R. Hall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wonder why I like M.R. Hall’s books starring Severn Vale District Coroner Jenny Cooper. The general setup of the three novels I have read so far (“Coroner”, “The Disappeared”, and the current one, “The Redeemed”) is heavily implausible - in each of them Ms. Cooper embarks on a personal crusade to uncover truth, fighting against the overwhelming evil forces of corporate greed, government abuse of power, religious fanaticism, etc. I doubt this is the usual working mode of British coroners in real life. I also doubt there are people so selflessly devoted to truth and justice. Furthermore, because of her traumatic experiences in the past, Ms. Cooper is a psychological wreck, barely functioning without constant excessive intake of Xanax and temazepam. Again, I doubt in real life a person with emotional and psychological problems this deep would keep her appointment as the coroner for very long. Yet, somehow, I have been enthralled by the novels.

“The Redeemed”, another “coroner procedural”/court drama, begins with Ms. Cooper working on establishing the cause of death of Alan Jacobs, a psychiatric nurse. Soon, she is convinced by a mysteriously persuasive Catholic priest to look into the recent death of Eva Donaldson, an ex-porn star, and now a born-again Christian. The plot is complex and well constructed and the denouement does not feel excessively artificial. I do not particularly care for the thread connected to the events in Ms. Cooper’s distant past, but it plays a role in the overall structure of the plot.

Mr. Hall writes well, without mannerisms and histrionics. The narrative and the dialogues are well crafted. The fundamentalist Mission Church of God and its ministers are portrayed skillfully and convincingly. The ending is too good to be true (I hope it is not too much of a spoiler). Obviously, in real life rich and powerful people almost always succeed in perverting and obstructing justice.

If not for the utter implausibility of a crusading coroner, guzzling anti-depressants, this would be a great novel. It is still pretty good.

Four stars.

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