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POPPET
by Mo Hayder
Bantam, March 2013
380 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0593068165


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

At a secure unit in Bristol for the mentally ill, the patients and the staff are being infected by a hallucination, a fear of The Maude, a white ghost with a smooth face that stalks the wards at night, slipping under doors and sitting on the chests of its victims. Two women have died and one man has scooped out his own eyeball, and no one knows why. All they know is there's no explanation for the two sudden deaths, and the night staff are calling in sick because no one wants to be there when it's dark. AJ, the unit's co-ordinator, has begun a love affair with his supervisor Melanie Arrow but still he goes against her wishes and asks for help from the Major Crime Investigation Team.

DI Jack Caffery is distracted. He has a team out searching for the remains of Misty Kitson while her distraught mother Jacqui accuses him of stalling the investigation, both in media interviews and in a Bristol restaurant while he's eating dinner. When AJ contacts him, he's happy to let this investigation too move at AJ's pace as he waits for a chance to return Misty's remains to her grieving mother, knowing as he does where they are.

Then Issac Handel is released from the unit, a patient who killed his parents when he was a child, a pale figure with a smooth face is seen in Melanie's garden and AJ's dog is poisoned. Finally Caffery starts to look into the background of the patients and the staff, and uncovers more secrets kept hidden and dangers left unchecked.

This is the sixth book in the Jack Caffery series and it is different to the others. To begin with, it's written in present tense, which I know can put some readers off but for me makes the action more immediate and the story telling more intimate. With this book, though, it does neither of these things. The writing feels rushed and unfocused, with neither of the two plots gaining any momentum while the narrative slouches along at the same pace as Jack Caffery's investigations.

The book suffers from having two distinct stories to tell, neither of which ever reach a real climax. The strands from the main plot never actually come together, fizzling out in what is a disappointing reveal of the person Hayder refers to as the 'Scoobie villain'. The secondary plot starts in a previous book and presumably ends in the next one, making this too unsatisfying and making the entire novel feel like a stepping stone in a larger story which it is but there isn't enough of a main plot here to make it work as a stand-alone book. For fans of the Jack Caffery series, it's a way to fill the time but newcomers to the books, would be well-advised not to start here.

Madeleine Marsh is an aspiring writer who lives in South West England. She helps run sci-fi conventions and loves modern cinema.

Reviewed by Madeleine Marsh, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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