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by Barry Maitland
Minotaur Books, November 2013
336 pages
ISBN: 1250028965

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

DI Kathy Kolla and DCI David Brock find themselves being called in to take an initial look at what appears to be the accidental death of a young woman on a houseboat by way of carbon monoxide poisoning. Soon it's clear that something more is happening with this case. An attempt to contact the woman's family reveals that the dead woman had assumed a false identity and that the woman's sister had died under similar and suspicious circumstances.

Almost as soon as Kolla and Brock start investigating the dead woman's neighbors at the houseboat mooring and looking into any connection to her sister's death, the newly-appointed police commander pulls them off the case. Soon after, Kolla is injured in an explosion that leaves her hospitalized and sidelined in her official capacity. Added to this, DCI Brock is battling bureaucratic resistance from newly installed Commander Fred Lynch, who is trying to usher in an era of austerity and modernity into Scotland Yard. While Lynch seems to be well-meaning, his efforts create an atmosphere that Brock and his colleagues dislike intensely. Instead, Scotland Yard's resources are directed away from other pressing cases towards the capture of a demented serial killer, Jack Bragg, who has returned to town to wreak havoc with much publicity.

The initial set-up is certainly intriguing and gives the reader high hopes for the novel. The theme of a police force dealing with budget cuts and the difficulties of modernization is compelling and timely but Maitland goes adrift with a long and somewhat meandering secondary storyline featuring a sadistic killer and medical experimentation that reduces DI Kolla to a mere damsel in distress. At times, it feels ages have gone by since progress was made in the initial investigation and by the time the novel gets back to it, the reader finds it hard to care much either way.

Both Brock and Kolla are perfectly amiable, if somewhat generic, characters to solve a crime with and in a better constructed novel, one can imagine their being the protagonists in a more compelling procedural. Maitland's prose is clear and accessible, and being the 12th entry in this series, the two protagonists have clearly grown on readers as realistic and human characters. Unfortunately, THE RAVEN'S EYE fails to deliver on its promising opening. It would have been stronger and more engaging had Maitland kept his eye on his initial plotline rather than chasing after a secondary narrative that fails the grab the reader's attention.

Ben Neal is a librarian who likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, February 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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