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by Mike Uden
Robert Hale, March 2013
224 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0719808227

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When private investigator Pamela Andrews is approached to take on the case of a missing Korean language student, Sue A, she weighs up the pros and cons and finds them pretty evenly balanced, but ultimately, she needs the money, and so does Anna, her daughter, just made redundant from a job she loved at a production company in London. Pamela knows that her involvement won't go down well with her former police colleagues, in particular her old boss, DCI David Sullivan, but that doesn't stop her, although she's under no illusion about why they've been hired. They're there to provide eye candy for the press and bring the case back into the public eye. In that respect, they certainly succeed, and it soon becomes apparent that a cold case has suddenly become hot property again. Maybe hotter than either Pamela or Anna bargained for.

The story is told in the first person from Pamela's point of view and is initially engaging, despite the heavy stereotype of the protective mother with a dose of hard-boiled ex-cop thrown into the mix to stop things becoming too syrupy, but I could have done without the liberal and rather arch asides to camera that Mike Uden determinedly splatters throughout the narrative, rather reminiscent of Jonathan Gash's Lovejoy books, although Uden never quite clears that particular bar, and Pamela is certainly no Lovejoy. The use of foreshadowing throughout the book is something else that I could have done without.

Pamela makes a reasonably convincing private investigator, despite her occasional lapses of common sense clearly designed to ensure the plot chugs along at the right pace in a predetermined direction. But for a private detective, she seems remarkably lacking in people skills, only appearing to have one response whenever she runs up against an obstacle, and that's to threaten to go to the press. Uden also makes liberal use of the old stock in trade of any private investigator book, the stupid copper, and here we have both a seemingly stupid DCI and several other officers that could almost have been straight out of an Enid Blyton novel. The use of the long out-dated term WPC only adds to the feeling that the author's research into modern policing has been superficial at best. However, I can wholly sympathise with a dislike of men with pony tails, as my predecessor, Sharon Wheeler knows all too well!

Despite those flaws, and some very strange lapses into the present tense that were as jarring as they were unnecessary, this was actually a surprisingly readable book and there was a degree to satisfaction to be taken in watching events unfold. If Uden can improve on the police procedural aspects of the book and give Pamela another case to get her teeth into she could well prove to have a career worth following.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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