Finished reading: The Disappeared by M. R. Hall

The disappeared

I was thinking of writing a review of The Disappeared, M. R. Hall's follow-up to his very successful debut The Coroner. My very kind colleague at Pan Macmillan, James Long, gave me a proof copy of the book, which I've just finished. But I see from the back cover of the proof that the book is not published until January 2010, so my review will have to wait.

The Disappeared continues the story of Jenny Cooper, Coroner for the Severn Dale district of Bristol in the south-west of England, across the river from Wales. Jenny is in her 40s, divorced from David, an arrogant surgeon. At the moment, their teenage son Ross is living with Jenny, but they aren't getting on too well – Jenny because she's permanently stressed out at work and suffers from chronic anxiety; Ross because he's a typical alienated teenager who wants independence until someone doesn't put a meal on the table when he's hungry. Both mother and son are recovering addicts, so their relationship is highly unstable.

Jenny has problems at work with her prickly assistant Alison as well as various male authority figures in the police force and at the morgue. The Disappeared is mainly about Jenny's investigation into two missing young Asian students, and the obfuscations she experiences from the police, MI5, the university, lawyers and assorted other people. At the same time, Jenny isn't sure about her relationship with Steve, her neighbour, or how she feels about Alec McAvoy, a maverick, struck-off lawyer who seems to be using his charms to manipulate her investigation.

The Coroner is just out in paperback in the UK and is doing well in the charts. The author, M. R. Hall, is a screenwriter, producer, and former criminal barrister.