the observer Sat 26 September 2009
A divorcee with a teenage son and a temazepam addiction is the hardbitten detective in this new take on the classic crime thriller. Jenny Cooper is the title character: an ex-family lawyer who relocates to the Bristol countryside for a quiet life as the city's coroner. What she gets, though (along with a hunky gardener knocking at her door) is a caseload of deaths that look covered up by her predecessor, who died suddenly, mid-investigation. The plot's heavy on paperwork and light on knocking skulls, but Hall's heroine is believable enough to care about, and it's good to see a novel niche being carved in the crowded realm of whodunits. Perhaps it'll do for coroners' courts what CSI did for forensic science.
the guardian Sat 13 December 2008
This big, well-executed debut novel from screenwriter and producer MR Hall has meaty characters and a chewy plot in the Lynda La Plante style. Jenny Cooper, newly appointed coroner to the Severn Vale, has all the requisite demons in her past, a liking for red wine and a reliance on temazepam, which she knocks back in such quantities that it is a wonder she manages to stay awake for the action. In the wrong hands, this sort of thing can pall rapidly, but Hall's direct and sympathetic style is such that Cooper is rendered likeable, engaging, and on the side of the angels without ever being smug. Naturally, she oversteps the mark and gets away with a hell of a lot as she investigates a series of teenage deaths in local detention centres, but Hall expertly prevents the plot from teetering over into implausibility.