Judge John Deed's female counterpart to perfection...
With a flurry of mixed reactions from the public, M R Hall delves his knowledgeable and experienced hand into crime writing with this, his debut, featuring Jenny Cooper - an erstwhile lawyer whose life fell to pieces an all too familiar vein, with a recent ex-husband and teenage son standing in the wings of her otherwise empty and despairing existence. Despite a resoundingly deep and unsettling nervous breakdown, Jenny finds herself the Coroner of the Severn Vale District. Appointed shortly after the abrupt death of her predecessor, Jenny hopes that taking up the job will prove less stressful and emotionally draining than working within the Family courts. Inevitably, fate has no intention of letting Jenny's fragile state of mind any respite just yet.
Some of her predecessor's (Harry Marshall) final acts stirs curiosity in Jenny, and keen as she is to keep her life simple, she is determined to be thorough in her new position as Coroner. Following due process is part of that, and when it seems that Marshall had deliberately not followed the rules in the case of a young girl's death - Jenny just can't help but be drawn into the sticky web.
Multi-million pound deals, dodgy council men and an intricate tangle of conspiracy and deceit hover over the plot like a bad smell. Tack on an ex-husband whose multitude of sins include a perpetually roving eye and a new, younger model; a rebellious teenage son who isn't coping with the fallout of the recent divorce and a pot-smoking local version of Mr Darcy - is it any wonder that Jenny's reliance on tamazipam and alcohol is reaching crisis point? The question is: will she make her case with her career and her mind intact?
That Hall uses Jenny's mental health as a device to make her more 'real' is certain, that is works, is not. For some, a woman at her wit's end relying on self-medication to get through the train wreck of her life would seem all too real, too others, too cliched or an affront to the judicial position of responsibility. For me, The Coroner has all the hallmarks of Hall's previous involvement in TV dramas such as Judge John Deed - gripping, intelligent and with a distinct attempt to make his main characters flawed yet likeable. I liked Jenny, as I liked The Coroner. I feel sure that there is more to come and that it will be equally enjoyable.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012