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Officially published on 1 Jan 2010, The Disappeared is the second in the Jenny Cooper 'coroner series' by M R Hall, introduced in The Coroner last year. Here, Cooper faces an unidentified 'Jane Doe' corpse and a distraught mother, Mrs Amira Jamal, as The Disappeared opens. As with The Coroner, it's Hall's remarkably intricate plotting that keeps the pages turning as the reader has no idea what could possibly some next. Also like The Coroner, Hall engages in a theme. With The Coroner it was youths in custody and with The Disappeared he explores Muslim radicalism.
Mrs Jamal's son Nazim, along with his friend Rafi Hassan disappeared seven years ago. Now, Mrs Jamal has a court order that notes that Nazim can be presumed dead and allows her to seek an inquest and thus an investigation into his disappearance through Cooper. For Mrs Jamal this is the last chance saloon to seek the truth of what happened when Nazim disappeared, why the police investigation fell so short, and to determine the involvement of the security services whose actions are both powerful and silent.
The Disappeared delivers good insight into the workings of a coroner, firmly establishing the emotions of all concerned, but without slowing the plot. Cooper continues to function at an enviable and impressive level considering her ongoing struggle with her own emotional and psychological traumas. (Her medication in The Disappeared is also better-researched and stated, lending more credibility to the proceedings.) Above all, she remains very human and frail, but finds strength in performing her professional duties.
Where the second in a series can be a disappointment, I found The Disappeared to be better than The Coroner. Hall certainly knows how to draw you in. He hooks you like a fish on emotions and plot and drags you into the whirlpool of the story he has to tell.
[My thanks to Maxine at Petrona for the proof copy from Macmillan.]