This was the first book I've read by Cooper, and I was keen to see what was giving her such a huge following. It didn't disappoint!
The storyline was quite complex, and I found it difficult to follow at times, but it centers around Trish, a newly promoted QC. She is excited to be assigned her first case until she realizes that she will be acting for Clean World Waste Management, who are accused of murdering a farmer when one of their waste disposal tanks exploded.
Trish works hard in preparing a solid defence, and we get a rare insight into the legal system, until she meets the farmers widow, a quiet woman who has more of an influence on Trish then anyone could have expected. With her husband dead and her livelihood in shatters, the widow has given up on life, and Trish suddenly finds herself torn between her job, and her morals.
Cooper does well on keeping us involved in the fast and complex world of law, and soon there is an intricate web of lies, betrayal and responsibility which are so carefully balanced...I found myself willing for Trish to uncover this, and realize that, and genuinely enjoyed the story. It has another level, however, as Trish's brother gets involved with some dodgy people and Trish finds herself distracted from her case. I didn't like this story, though, as I felt the main story was more then enough to keep up with!!
All in all, this was a very different read to my usual books, but was well worth the effort needed to keep up!
Yes, another crime novel review from me. I'm really getting into this genre now! I'm more of a crime/thriller fanatic at the moment, but this one is more focussed on the crime aspect rather than one to give you chills or keep you on a knifes edge. I reviewed the first Natasha Cooper novel I read back in July, A Greater Evil, so I was keen to read A Poisoned Mind when I came across it in the library.
The tagline on the front of the book is 'How many people must suffer?', which doesn't give too much away. The blurb didn't really grip me too much if I'm honest, but I was sure the writing style would be brilliant judging by the standards of the previous novel of hers I had read.
The book has two storylines that run parallel, similar to how she has written before. This is a Trish Maguire novel, so people familiar with Cooper's work will recognise the key character. It doesn't actually matter if you've even heard of the author before because it's a stand alone book, meaning you don't really need any background knowledge, but it does help to get a feel for Trish's personality and home life.
Early on in the book we're plunged into the first storyline. John and wife Angie run a farm and b&b, whilst also looking after a container of hazardous chemical waste on their land. The money they get for storing and checking this for a company known as CWWM helps to keep them afloat, but something goes horribly wrong when the container explodes, killing John and leaving Angie a widow.
Cue Trish Maguire, the cool, straight talking barrister. Now a silk, Maguire has developed as a character since the last novel I read, and such developments are interesting and insightful to read if you follow the novels.
Maguire is acting on behalf of CWWM, defending the company whose chemical waste killed John. Angie, fuelled by the want to get justice for her husband and claim back some of the money she's lost after her farm/b&b became contaminated, represents herself in court. She has two people by her side during the court case, a dubious pair who are members of FADE, a company against companies such as CWWM who dangerously expose and dump chemical waste.
At the same time, a parallel plot concerning Trish's home-life is woven. Her husband, George, and adopted son, David (her brother), are caught up in an uncertain and precarious situation when David makes a new friend, Jay. Jay has a volatile home-life and displays reckless behaviour, but the Maguire family see past his behaviour and let him into their life, hoping to protect him from his own family and get him back on the right track whilst he's at school with David.
Throughout the 371 pages, both storylines become deeper, more complex as various companies, names and events are thrown into the mix. The complexity means this is a book that requires some thought to keep on top of who's who, but Cooper is good as keeping us up to date on what's going on without confusing or losing us.
I really liked the conflicts of interests over the court case. As moral and personal feelings are brought up by the case, Trish is put into a difficult position by defending CWWM, knowing that the Widow, Angie, stands to potentially lose everything that she hasn't already lost.
I also like the dual storylines, which flow well together whilst being separate enough for you not to get muddled. The insight into Trish's home-life adds another dimension to the book and really helps to understand how she feels and operates on an everyday basis.
Whilst I wasn't too keen about a chemical waste plot, it was fairly complex and had a few twists that perhaps weren't expected at first. The story was one to tug on heart strings, especially as there's a great deal of attention paid to Angie, and reading of how she's struggling with the case, the loss of her home, job and husband, is gripping to read. But because of the topic, a chemical waste spill, there's not as much action or poignant events occurring at a fast pace as I would have liked. That didn't make it boring, but it did mean the book lacked a bit of the edge and suspense I like reading in crime novels.
Overall, the writing is excelling. Cooper is a very confident writer and brings the characters to live extremely well, and I was stuck into this book from start to finish. As per the quote on the back by Mark Billingham, Cooper is 'one of the most accomplished crime writers in the country', a claim I would agree with.
[ 2008 RRP £6.99 - Amazon £4.89 ]