Title: A matter of blood
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Review: Not very long ago, Sarah Pinborough was featured in SFX, and I promised myself I’d read some of her books. I decided to go back and have a look at her trilogy, The God-Faced Dogs, which starts with this one.
At first, I had this down as Blade Runner meets Seven, future-noir (I’m making up genres here, I think). Grizzled police detective in a near-future London, post-economic crash, in a society dominated by a single company, in this case The Bank. A series of murders with some very creepy features.
That’s pretty much how the story unfolds for the first half. Pinborough’s writing in this book feels like a much better writer playing at being mid-list crime noir. It’s great, but there are moments that just don’t work. One of those is that the Bank has been set up by two recognisable figures (Bill Gates and Richard Branson), and there’s something about that which just doesn’t work for me. I’ve always found anonymous consortia of multi-billionaires scarier than nerdkings and guys who appear in their own ads in an affable relationship with Olympic gold medal winners.
There are a few of these moments, times when it feels like things get too close to our reality and the suspended disbelief gets a little shaky, or when mention of companies gets the wrong reaction. Carphone Orange Warehouse is too painfully like Grey Enterprises Holdings Ltd Plc from 50 Shades of Grey, I’m afraid. These are minor things, though, and they just make you gag a little when you read them, rather than spoil the rest of the book.
Anyway, until about halfway through, Blade Runner and Seven sprung instantly to mind, and perhaps the BBC series Messiah from the 90s that I bet you don’t remember. The central protagonist is DI Cass Jones, a grizzled detective with the usual failed sex life (he’s managed to get married at least, although that’s on its last legs), and dodgy way of working. The serial killer leaves his bodies with perfectly placed flies eggs in the eyes, along with the statement in blood ‘Nothing is Sacred’.
It’s gripping stuff. It gets even more compelling when Cass’s brother’s family is killed in what looks like a murder-suicide. Cass begins to see visions of his brother, which are so well described that the book wanders into the territory of early 90s James Herbert or very early Stephen King. Chilling to the degree that you might not want to read the book late at night on your own.
From here, Pinborough adds more elements of horror and the supernatural. The book remains a study in London noir, but the complexity of the plot expands almost exponentially, and by the end leaves plenty of room for the second two books of the trilogy to play with the world she has created.
It’s the kind of book you want to read in one sitting. By the end, you can addExorcist stylings, and that most replicated of the horror genre, traditional Catholic mythology. I’m very curious to see what she does with the next two books.
Buy it here: