Fiction Reviews

A Matter of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods

(2010) Sarah Pinborough, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, 357pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08945-7


In the near future, a company created by a cabal of the rich, called simply The Bank is the owner of nearly everything. In London, Detective Inspector Cass Jones is investigating two cases. The murder of two boys caught in a gangland shooting and a serial murderer. The latterís modus operandi is to leave fly eggs in the eyes of the corpses, resulting in his being known as 'the Man of Flies'.

Cassí brother Christian, who works at The Bankís London branch, is found dead, having apparently shot himself, his wife and son. Then Cassí fingerprints are found on the murder weapon. While Cass tries to find out who has framed him, he starts to trace his family history uncovering links to The Bank and the killer. Also he starts to see visions of his late brother, just watching him as he investigates.

This is a serial killer/crime story that moves into supernatural and conspiracy areas. It is a credit to Pinborough that this narrative holds together. The reason I say this is because the crime and investigation scenes are so strong. The lead character Cass Jones is interesting, having a moral tone of shades of grey, in a decaying marriage and being haunted by events in his past. The supporting cast is also very well-drawn, with several of them having their own secrets coming to light.

The conspiracy and supernatural elements are not overdone, being comparatively small scale. It is as if the story starts off as a conventional crime novel to ease new readers into these fantastical elements. The most recent comparator reference that I can think of is the BBC television series Edge of Darkness, with its police investigation uncovering darker secrets.

Another strength of Pinborough's writing is the sense of a world suffering from the effects of financial insanity. Admittedly, this may not be hard to do these days. However, Pinborough still manages to convey this through the accumulation of: details, job insecurity, widespread corruption, terrorism and pet abandonment. This also ties into the themes of decay throughout the novel.

However, there is one aspect I personally felt was a flaw. This novel is the first of a trilogy, and there a couple of scenes that set up future developments, which feel like the characters are basically saying 'Iíll explain later'. However it should be said that the book does have a conclusion to story's immediate events.

I found A Matter of Blood to be an interesting and disturbing novel. It does leave you interested in the fate of the main character and the next book in the series. Even as a solitary volume, it is a satisfying read.

David Allkins

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