The Coroner by M R Hall

I’m not sure what drew me to this one. I read a certain amount of crime, but I’m not a great lover of straightforward modern procedurals. But there are some authors who can give them that little bit extra to make them more than a generic read.Could M R Hall be one of them?

The set-up was promising. Jenny had an established career as a family lawyer but, after a nasty divorce and a breakdown, she opted for a new career in a new town. As a coroner.

It’s an interesting angle. One that I’d not come across before, and it works well.

Jenny is struggling to cope and, with her son staying with his father, she is alone and focused solely on survival and the new job. There’s plenty to keep her busy. Her predecessor died suddenly and things are in a mess.

And it seems that he had acted strangely in the days leading up to his death. So Jenny looks at his case files. And finds things that are very wrong. But nobody wants to know and many powerful people want to keep her quiet.

The story is simply and starkly written, but it is compelling; it twists and turns and builds up to some dramatic scenes in the coroner’s court.

But for me the autor stuck a little to rigidly to the conventions of the genre; a few too many of the characters seemed to have come straight from central casting. And there were a few too many characters, a few too many angles.

There were some lovely touches and some very well observed moments though. Jenny was utterly believable as a woman avoiding dealing with difficult issues by focusing only on her job. Her assistant, Alison’s frustration with her new boss, biting her tongue because she knew she had to hang on to her job, rang true too.

And hooray for a pathologist character making an effective contribution without excessive or unpleasant forensic detail!

At the end of the day I felt this was a generic novel with a little more class than most. It feels like the start of a series, and it might be one that goes on repeating the same formula or it might just grow into something more interesting.

I’m not going to be rushing out in search of the next book, and I’m probably not going to look for it in the library. But if Jenny ever makes it on to a television screen – and I have a feeling she might – I’d certainly take a look.

And The Coroner is worth a look if you like traditional crime procedurals. I don’t dislike them, but I can’t read everything, and these days my reading priorities lie elsewhere.