Hall, M R - 'The Flight'
When Flight 189 plunges into the Severn Estuary, Coroner Jenny Cooper finds herself handling the case of a lone sailor whose boat appears to have been sunk by the stricken plane, and drawn into the mysterious fate of ten-year old Amy Patterson whose largely unmarked body is washed up alongside the sailor's.
A highly secretive operation is launched to recover clues from the wreckage, and Jenny begins to ask questions the officials don't want answered. How could such a hi-tech plane fail? What linked the passengers on-board? How did little Amy survive the crash, only to perish hours later? Worst of all, might this terrible disaster happen again?
It's no easy thing to carve out a new niche in the crowded market of crime fiction, but Hall's deeply felt and detailed thrillers seem to be doing just that. His heroine, Jenny Cooper, is a coroner. Yes, she's unorthodox, damaged, driven - all traits which readers of crime will be well used to, but Hall makes ingenious use of the coroner's independent role in determining cause of death.
This means Jenny can rub up against the established boundaries of the police and judiciary, and Hall plays out her tenacity with intelligence and skill. Jenny's drive comes from her very real empathy for the bereaved. In THE FLIGHT, she listens to Amy's grieving mother, and becomes determined to find answers to the difficult questions surrounding the girl's death.
At the same time, Jenny is faced with her father's imminent death after a long illness. Can she make peace with her troubled past before it's too late? And what demons will be uncovered and/or laid to rest in the process?
This is a book with length and depth, not something to be chewed up lightly in a single sitting, although it's gripping enough to accomplish that trick. The technical details of the aircraft are allowed painstaking page space, but it's the emotional breadth which stands out as Hall's real achievement.
Jenny's tentative involvement with a new man is rather beautifully handled throughout. Few readers will be able to resist 'delicate, damaged and darkly beautiful' Michael Sherman, but Hall knows better than to make it easy for our heroine to get (and even want) her man. The result adds yet more satisfying layers to the story.
Sarah Hilary, England
Sarah Hilary is the Bristol-based winner of the Sense Creative Writing Award 2010 and the Fish Criminally Short Histories Prize 2008. She is currently working on a crime novel. Her agent is Jane Gregory