I very much enjoyed this crime novel by M.R. Hall, which is far more than a great story about terrorism and its consequences on a free society, in this case that of the UK. While it is indeed a gripping tale that features an original plot with an unexpected surprise at the end, The Disappeared operates on multiple levels, offering some incisive observations on how the increasing diversity of people and cultures within a population complicate our professional lives, as well as our social interactions.
But the greatest strength of this novel is its complex and interesting characters. The hero, a local coroner named Jenny Cooper, has both positive qualities that make her admirable and serious flaws that make her pathetic. There are no stock characters here. All of them are very much authentic, with traits to praise and shortcomings to criticize. Alison, Jenny's assistant, is both a scold and a rock-solid colleague. McAvoy is seasoned and sexy while at the same time dessicated and dangerous. Even the minor characters, such as Jenny's ex-husband David, are fully fleshed out and obviously rendered with care.
In addition to the fine characterizations, The Disappeared has many nice touches that enhance its credibility and its entertainment value. For instance, Jenny's jurisdiction lies in the Severn Valley, a region right on the border between England and Wales. M.R. Hall deftly evokes echos of the ancient enmity that continues to exist between the English and the Welsh. I found this of considerable interest since it mirrors the far more dangerous antagonism between the UK's first-generation Muslim citizens and its majority population today.
Bottom line: The Disappeared is a superior read, particularly if you enjoy crime novels and thrillers.
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About the reviewer
Bonnie McEwan (BonnieMcEwan)
I own a communications consultancy in NYC called MAKE WAVES, which serves nonprofit organizations and foundations. I also hold a Visiting Lecturer position at Milano: The New School for Management & … more
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