Amanda's Reviews > A Matter of Blood

A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough
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's review
Jul 14, 10

really liked it
bookshelves: crime, horror, review-copy, series
Read in March, 2010

This is the first novel in The Dog-Faced Gods trilogy, and rather defies classification by genre. It could fit quite comfortably in the crime section of a bookstore, or the horror section, and the dystopian near-future setting where The Bank controls governments places it squarely on the sci-fi shelves. The result is a novel that scares and thrills in equal measure. Sarah Pinborough acknowledges the influences of Michael Marshall Smith in his crime thriller guise as Michael Marshall, and I could definitely see echoes of his sparse yet pulse-pounding style in the way Pinborough sets out the events in A Matter of Blood.

The novel concerns Cass Jones, a rather difficult character to like but one you can't help sympathise with. He follows in the footsteps of all those police characters in detective novels - slightly maverick, working in shades of grey rather than idealistic black and white, always the best person to get into the psyche of the killer they're chasing. He could be accused of being rather cliche, and does come across as such while the novel works within the boundaries of being a straight up crime novel - as soon as the dark supernatural events start sliding onto the pages he escapes this accusation, and becomes a character we can really identify with.

The plot is not too complicated, with a nice linear structure; and Pinborough's use of chapter end cliffhangers ensures you feel a constant need to just turn the next page. I stayed up [far too:] late reading this book, with a complete inability to put it down because I wanted to find out why Cass is being set up, who the Man of Flies is, and whether all three police cases are linked to the mystery of Bright and Solomon. I enjoyed the lean prose, which fleshed out the setting and the secondary characters with broad brush-strokes but didn't dwell lovingly on all the little details.

The characters are intriguing and some of them definitely leap off the page. I particularly liked DI Ramsey, another police officer who lends Cass a quiet hand, and Dr Tim Hask, the profiler brought in to try and work out who is committing the brutal murders of seemingly random women. Both of these characters had small parts in the novel overall, but really came to life with some excellent dialogue.

There are a few issues with the novel - at times the foreshadowing was extremely clumsy, and I felt as though I was being signposted too strongly away from the meat of the case. Pinborough's misdirection definitely wasn't as smooth as it could be. The supernatural elements are also added in a distinctly self-conscious manner - although I like the mystery of Bright and Solomon, I felt as though this novel would not have suffered from being non-genre rather than introducing ghosts and Gods.

The main thrust of the novel's events are wrapped up in a decent resolution, but there is definitely enough material for the remaining books in this trilogy - and I, for one, cannot wait to read them! A Matter of Blood is a cracking read, never less than thoroughly entertaining and genuinely creepy.
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