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Taken for Dead – Graham Masterton

This is the fourth book in a series featuring detective Katie Maguire. I haven’t read the previous books, but bar a couple of references this book is a stand alone novel. However, a little extra background in parts would have helped.

The book arrived at lunchtime, I intended taking a sneak preview: about two hours later I put the book down having read a substantial portion of it.

That first glimpse had me hooked. An Irish wedding in full swing; the drinks are flowing; the music is pulsing; the bride and groom rise to cut the cake….

…only to find a human head baked into the bottom tier.

Sad to say though, my initial enthusiasm was rudely and cruelly cut short. The book suddenly changed tack and in parts almost became chick-lit. Looking at the grisly and gritty start, it was impossible to see how, or why, the author would move on to describe such things as the clothes the main character wore and how she felt when having sex. In all honesty, I had the feeling that maybe there was more than one author, the shift was so pronounced.

I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy the book, because I did. The book is gruesome, deliciously so in places, and draws heavily on the Celtic myth of The High Kings. The main plot is so simple it’s brilliant. Unfortunately, the sub plots are not quite so robust and you don’t have to think too hard to spot glaring holes in them. There are a few good twists though; it isn’t all as it quite appears.

The characters were in the main well rounded and credible; however some of their actions stretched that credibility to the limit. Would a senior police officer really flout firearms procedures?

Some of the language used in the book left me cold. I have to admit to being unfamiliar with the Irish speak/slang used and I couldn’t always find on-line translations. I was at times left wondering what an expression actually meant. I also found it tedious the way the author continually used people’s full job titles and descriptions of characters (‘two bouncer types’) even after their identities had been revealed.

However, it was the unnecessary sex and ‘girlie’ style that really spoiled this book for me. There was no reason for it and it added nothing to the story. In fact, I thought it actually stole some of the credibility from the main story.

I was also frustrated by what appeared to be a rushed and convenient ending; it was almost as if the author had hit his contracted word count, and just wrapped things up as quickly as possible. It somehow felt as if he was almost glad to see the back of it.

Shame; after such a good start I’m afraid I can only award this one an average rating of three anchors.