A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough (Ace, April 2013)-DI Cass Jones isn’t a perfect man. In fact, he’s been known to take “payments” from certain local “businessmen”, has what he calls a cocaine “hobby”, and in spite of being married, can’t seem to stay away from the opposite sex. He is, however, a very, very good policeman, and when he picks up a fellow cop’s murder cases, one in particular has him stymied. The 4th victim in what they now know is the work of a serial killer has been found, a pinprick in her arm and “Nothing is Sacred”written across her chest in blood, with no other signs of assault. Meanwhile, Cass is also working on the drive by shootings of two teenagers, who the police assumed were caught in the crossfire of a shooting meant for a local thug. Someone has sent the police a video of the crime, and something is off about it, but Cass can’t quite put his finger on it. All of this seems to fall by the wayside when he gets the news that his younger brother supposedly killed his wife and young son, then turned the gun on himself. Shattered, and convinced his brother would never kill his family and commit suicide, he starts digging into his brother’s, and his family’s, pasts, and is soon confronted with the image of a man who calls himself Mr. Bright. Mr. Bright may not be entirely human, and his connection to the one who calls himself the Man of Flies might be the key to all three cases.
Sarah Pinborough is very popular overseas and she’s written quite a few horror titles that are available in the US. My point is, the lady is a pro, and it shows in A Matter of Blood, the first novel in the Forgotten Gods Series (The Dog Faced Gods in the UK). I’ve made no secret as to my weakness for British coppers, and Cass Jones is right up there with Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffery and Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne. He’s in a cold marriage with a wife that can take him or leave him (mostly leave him), due to an event that happened during his undercover days, and at first, I thought this might be a tool to add to the pain of his brother’s death, but it’s not. Cass’s wife is much, much more than she seems, and her ice queen demeanor set me up for quite a revelation, but I digress. Back to murder. While Cass is attempting to retrace his brother’s footsteps before his death, things seem to point right to The Bank, a vastly powerful and secretive organization that is widely thought to actually run most of the country. When Cass starts asking around about Mr. Bright, the name seems to conjure awe and fear in equal measure and when he’s stonewalled completely, he knows he’s on the right track.
So, what can you look forward to in A Matter of Blood? Police procedural: check. More twists and turns than the streets of London: check. A complex, flawed protagonist: check. All that with a supernatural twist and threads of a dark and vast conspiracy. Set against a slightly alternate London, with the looming shadow of economic ruin over its people, Sarah Pinborough has created a world not unlike the one in Michael Marshall Smith’s Straw Men trilogy, but with a distinctive voice all her own. She also does it without the use of overt gore and relies on subtle, creeping horror to get her point across. The murders aren’t particularly gruesome (except for maybe the flies…that’s enough to make anyone shudder), but there are some scenes that will make those little hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She expertly explores the darkest places in the human soul as well, and while I would have liked to know more about Cass’s past while undercover, I’m hoping that she’ll revisit that more in the next book. While the book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, it does leave questions that beg to be answered, and I’m anxious to dig into the next book in the series, The Shadow of the Soul, in August! A Matter of Blood is the perfect intro to a superb writer, and it’s not to be missed!