Monday, 9 March 2015

The Coroner - M.R.Hall

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A dysfunctional detective who shines more than the story.

Well, that holds true for most crime novels isn't it? Almost as if it is a fashion for the central characters to be a bit skewed
if they need to be investigated some twisted crime. Well, this book is interesting soley for its lead character rather than the bit about solving the crime.


A teenager is found murdered in a prison centre and then a prostitute of a similar age is found dead on the streets. They both had records and it seems like an open and shut case. However, the coroner who did their inquests dies and the cases lands up on the door of Jenny Cooper, a newly appointed coroner. After a meltdown on the professional and personal fronts as a lawyer and a mother, she has been given the role of a coroner, apparently a less stressful and low profile job.

Despite having several issues, least of which is drinking and drugs, Cooper refuses to give a verdict and decides to dig into the case. Confrontng her is the system that has its own reasons to keep the cases quiet and the her own past which makes her an unpopular colleague. Cooper also has issues on the family front, still reeling from losing custody of her son to her ex-husband which adds another dimension to her personality.

Cooper's headstrong attitude helps her win allies on the way as she battles a strong and corrupt system to find out the truth behind the two cases.

What works:

  • The characterisation. Jenny Cooper is too good. The reader can identity with her and empathise with her. Despite her numerous faults she comes across as a loveable character that one feels for. 
  • The story gets too bogged down with the details of how the understaffed coroner's department leads with workload. The underdogs of the society often get a raw deal due to the shortage of resources and this is well reflected in the story.

What doesn't:

  • The story is more about the corrupt system rather than a whodunnit. It is more like an expose of the means by which crime force handles caseload. 
  • It doesn't have the pace of a whodunnit, readingg more like an honest person's tirade against injustice. 
However, the book shines through for the honest and excellent portrayal of Jenny Cooper. I stuck through the end to watch how Jenny Cooper fares. That is the only thing that keeps you going through that 400+ pages. 

In a nutshell, don't pick up expecting a fast paced plot instead relish in its characters. The book becomes more enjoyable then.

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