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by Natasha Cooper
Simon & Schuster, February 2008
384 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0743295471

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Barrister Trish Cooper is feeling very under-employed. She has finally been chosen as a QC, but is waiting for work to filter through. Trish is most unused to having time for long lunches and reading the newspaper.

When a job comes through, it's one she would dearly love to avoid. Angie Fortwell, the widow of a Northumberland sheep farmer, is taking chemical giants CWWM to court. Her husband John was killed in a massive explosion when the chemical tanks stored on their farm blew up.

Trish gets called in to defend the multi-national company under very unfortunate circumstances. And as she does more research she starts wonder whether the incident was an accident or sabotage.

I've always had mixed feelings about this series, mainly because I find the characters hard to warm to and the books heavily class-ridden. Trish is a poor girl made good, and there are frequent references to the food eaten on either side of the tracks the plebs appear to live on junk food, Trish's legal colleagues dine at swanky restaurants, and she eats well courtesy of partner George, who's a good cook.

Cooper tends to have a heavy hand with her characterisation there's not much between the braying, upper class barristers Trish meets in her day job, and the violent and heavy-drinking working class people who at times sound like a particularly corny soap opera episode. And she's clumsy on the stereotypical green activists as well (the farting after eating bean stew references got old very quickly).

The class divide is exacerbated in this book by the presence of Jay, a deeply troubled teenager who is friendly with her half-brother David. He's spending a lot of time round at the flat, and Trish finds herself deeply involved with Jay's dysfunctional family when his alcoholic mother is found beaten up and close to death.

The plot itself is engrossing enough, although you may need to suspend disbelief once or twice would Trish really be able to go off and investigate against the express orders of the client? And there are one or two assumptions at different points of the book that are a bit too convenient.

A POISONED MIND is a fast and easy read, and if you've been following the series, one dramatic incident near the end relieves some of the talkiness of the book and injects a white-knuckle feel that will have knock-on repercussions into Trish's next appearance.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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