3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Sarah Pinborough's debut, A Matter of Blood, is something very new and nasty. It combines the streetwise grime of a George Pelecanos thriller with the near future dystopian setting of Richard Morgan.
DI Cass Jones has a lot to deal with - a terrible marriage, a hideous past, a very strange (but successful) brother, a string of inopportune affairs and at least three nasty murder cases. Fortunately, he's a fantastic detective with a good network of useful friends. Unfortunately, he's attracted the attention of some of the world's real players. Starting from the first page, Jones is caught up in a whirlwind of action. Even when his cases are quiet, his own self-destructive tendencies keep things moving. Poor guy hasn't got a chance.
Perhaps the best compliment that could be made to Ms Pinborough's book is that you don't even notice that it isn't a proper mystery. Although science fiction and supernatural elements sneak in, they're done with such natural grace that it doesn't feel jarring. There's one small exception (when the author indulges in a tiny bit of world-building when describing the background of the all-powerful Bank), but aside from that one tiny lapse, she maintains complete and utter suspension of disbelief. This is a realistic (sadly) and engrossing mystery, set in a future that's close enough to touch.
The mystery itself is well-plotted with genuinely surprising twists and turns. The conclusion is also expertly done. Pinsborough deserves congratulations for resolving a tricky nest of mysteries while, at the same time, setting up the sequel.
A highly recommended new release, and an author to watch.
on July 20, 2014
Rob's Critical Book Review: "A Matter of Blood," by Sarah Pinborough
Though I'm sure to upset some authors and publishers who, understandably, want five-star reviews, I've my own definition of the five-star system.
*One Star: A crime against God and man.
*Two Stars: Poor, or otherwise not ready for publication.
*Three Stars: A solid work worth the money/read.
*Four Stars: A superior, award-worthy achievement.
*Five Stars: A standard setter, a work to stand the test of time, a work to be studied and read again and again....
A horrific story of pure noirish delight!
"A Matter of Blood," by Sarah Pinborough, an award-worthy four star book.
Sarah Pinborough's work has been around for a while, a decade-plus, and I've had the pleasure of enjoying some of her novels, specifically her Dorchester work, published through Leisure. Amongst these, I've read:
* The Hidden
* The Reckoning
* Breeding Ground
All three of these were courtesy of my belonging to Leisure's Horror Book Club, where I would receive a couple of their dark fiction titles a month. Lots of great work came through this venerable pipeline, and Lady Pinborough's stories were a welcome addition. The above listed titles were all enjoyable three star tomes, solid pieces well worth the money and the time to read.
Unfortunately, with there being a lot of fine writers and great stories, I lost track of Ms. Pinborough. Like all story addicts, I've a to-be-read pile that never manages to shrink. And ... really? What's the problem? I'll read more of Pinborough later.
Later ... later ... later.
But, finally, I did!
A Matter of Blood.
Shopping at Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, seeing this softback's incredible cover, its great title, its even more enticing sub-title, and then to read that it was only book one of "The Dog-Faced Gods," I knew I had to have it. But even then, that damnable to-be-read pile interfered, and it was some months before I got to it.
But I did.
With the previous three novels that I had read, again, I had always been consistently entertained, but what a treat it was to read a book that displayed a massive jump in prose and storytelling. No, the comment isn't fair, and no, this so-called jump isn't new (if it's even real), not with it now being 2014 and this tale coming out back in 2010.
But it was new to me.
Check out the blurb on the back of the book:
The recession that is gripping the world has left it exhausted, and deep in debt to The Bank, a secretive company run by the world's wealthiest men.
Detective Inspector Cass Jones has quite enough on his plate: two schoolboys have been massacred on his patch, and he's also tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide, and Cass is implicated in their deaths. When he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, the DI goes on the hunt himself--only to discover that all three cases are linked.
As Jones examines his own family history, three questions keep reapearing: What disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?
But even this tantalizing bit doesn't do the book justice. And, frankly speaking, all too often, I find these things in reverse, where a book's actual story doesn't live up to such back-cover teasers. Such is the power of "A Matter of Blood," a book which far surpassed my expectations.
Of a truth, "A Matter of Blood" is so good, that with this first offering of a trilogy, Sarah Pinborough, in my mind, is now right up there with the greats in this style of story, my list of writing gods whom I consider to be masters of what they do, such as Conrad Williams, Neil Cross, Michael Marshall Smith, and Tom Piccirilli.
In closing, "A Matter of Blood" is a cross genre work to please audiences across the board: sci-fi, fantasy, and certainly horror. The magic, in part--if such things can be defined--is in the way that A Matter of Blood subtly blends these elements under the over-riding thread of well-crafted noir.
And this is just book one!
Read it and see what I mean.
If the sequels meet or exceed this opener's high standards, down the road, this trilogy might well turn out to be one of Pinborough's master works.
All my best,
Rob M. Miller
A side note to the author:
Dear Ms. Pinborough,
In 2010 the Stoker winner for best novel was Peter Straub for "A Dark Matter," which might well be a perfect novel. If one has to lose, it couldn't be done under better circumstances. Fortunately, such awards, as subjective as they are, do not minimize the merits of other works, and for those in-the-know, there really is no such thing as "losing," least not for the tales we love. In the case of "A Matter of Blood," for this renewed fan of your work, you hit one out of the park.
No, I haven't yet read parts II and III, but will, and with enthusiasm. After all, I want to see what you've done ... where you've gone with DI Jones, and what you've put down on the page. Reading other reviews, it's apparent, as always, that people have their differing tastes, but for this reader, with this book, you've made something ... darkly wonderful. Perhaps this novel was easy to write. Maybe you were tapped into your muse and things just flowed. In my imagination, however, you went outside of your box, took risks, stretched. In my fantasies, the work might have even scared you. Perhaps you wondered: Oh, my God, this might be good ... might even be great.
Who knows but you. And it's no one's business but yours.
Save for this: Whatever your process, compass, method, or manner of teeth-pulling, keep doing what you do.
All my best,
A renewed fan.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2011
This review was published over at Elitist Book Reviews. Go give out site a visit for more reviews and interviews!
What was the last book you read that completely blew you away? It shouldn't be too hard to remember, especially given the astounding levels of mediocrity present in most genres. Being book reviewers--and this may shock you--we read a TON of books. Horror novels fall apart in the end. Thrillers can almost always be predicted. Dan Brown is, well, Dan Brown. Fantasy gets bogged down in the cliché. SF makes you feel like you need an advanced physics degree. Ever genre has its downfalls. We read so much that for a novel to really stand out, it has to be special.
Have we piqued your curiosity yet?
A MATTER OF BLOOD, by Sarah Pinborough, is special. A lot of horror and mystery with some paranormal and SF thrown in--it pushes all our buttons in all the right ways. The novel takes place in a near-future London...only this London isn't the vacationers dream as we know it. Corruption on all levels has very nearly brought the city to its knees, and it is in the midst of a mini-apocalypse of sorts...only no one seems to notice or really care. Our main PoV is Detective Inspector Cass Jones. He is investigating a high-profile, public shooting of two boys when he is assigned an additional case dealing with a serial killer. Things are "calm" at this point in the novel, and soon go completely off-the-scale crazy.
The very first thing that jumps out in A MATTER OF BLOOD is Cass Jones. He has serious issues. Guilt. Attitude. Drug addiction. Family problems. He doesn't try to be witty. His life sucks too much to even attempt it. But he is also extremely good at his job. His skill helps the reader initially overcome the "dirt-bag" vibe he exudes early in the novel. Don't worry, by the end of the novel you'll love Cass in spite of his problems...or perhaps because of them. We wouldn't even really call Cass an antihero. Though that is all the rage, Cass Jones never wears that particular hat. The attraction to this particular Inspector is that he comes across as a seriously flawed, yet hard working guy. That "human" aspect is the key.
Pinborough's description in this novel is awesome. From describing the dingy streets of London, to the macabre crime-scenes, to the way the whole police business now works is all top-notch. Hazy flashbacks come at the perfect time. It all sets the ambiance and the mood just right. There is a palpable Raymond Chandler, noir/hardboiled feel to it all. That alone should be enough to get you salivating.
The pacing in A MATTER OF BLOOD is fantastic. Right when you start to worry that things are slowing down too much, Pinborough twists the story a little more through whatever means she feels necessary. She doesn't ever seem to be afraid to genre-mix, and she never pulls punches. Ever.
Perhaps the best descriptor we can give is that A MATTER OF BLOOD is everything we hoped R. Scott Bakker's thrillers would be. Where his thrillers have ultimately fallen completely flat in our opinion, Pinborough's novel succeeds and excels in every way.
Now like we said, the endings of 90% of all Horror novels unravel and completely ruin the rest of the novel. Not so in this case. The ending to A MATTER OF BLOOD made it better. It was completely perfect, awesome and shocking. When everything starts coming together, and the Cass puts the pieces together, it is SOOOOOO GOOD. We couldn't turn the pages quick enough. While a bit of it was kinda predictable, it was the sinister and horrific tiny twists that made it frakking awesome.
Sarah Pinborough's A MATTER OF BLOOD is horrific and gripping. It immediately vaults into our top novels not just in the Horror genre, but in any genre. It perfectly encapsulates all the great qualities of Crime Fiction, Horror and Urban Fantasy with a little SF thrown in for kicks. EVERYONE should read this novel.
Currently A MATTER OF BLOOD is only available in the UK, though Sarah hinted at a US release through Tor later this year. We don't care if you import it now or wait for the US release. We've already bought the UK edition, and we'll buy copies of the US version too. Yeah, for us it was THAT GOOD. Her second novel has just been released in the UK, and we will probably put our lives completely on hold to read it.
Recommended Age: 18+
Language: Gritty Crime/Horror. Tons of swearing, but it never actually feels overused somehow.
Violence: Our good buddy James Barclay (we owe you one, James) pointed us in Sarah's direction with the promise of awesomely described violence. He's never led us astray before, and he didn't this time. Crazy, crazy stuff.
Sex: Talked about very, very openly and often, but never actually shown in explicit detail.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
`A Matter of Blood' is the first book in Sarah Pinborough's `The Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy.
This is a dark and sinister read. Not least of all because it hits so close to home. Pinborough is writing about a not-too-distant future, only a few years away in fact. The GFC (Global Financial Crisis) has not abated, and in an effort to limit the fallout a conglomerate World Bank is created. Funded by billionaires Gates and Branson, in partnership with Japan, China and Russia, `The Bank' now runs all of the Western World's property and bank accounts in a bid to stave off a crippling depression. It is indeed a corporate-run world, and the times they are a changin'. Crime is on the rise, health-care is nonexistent and citizens are on-edge.
It is in this climate that the city of London is rocked by reports of a serial killer on the loose. `The man of flies is among us' - preying on young women and leaving a gruesome maggot trademark that the papers would salivate over.
On the case is Detective Inspector Cassius `Cass' Jones.
DI Jones brings to mind a very apt Raymond Chandler quote; "Police business is a hell of a problem. It's a good deal like politics. It asks for the highest type of men, and there's nothing in it to attract the highest type of men. So we have to work with what we get."
Jones is an imperfect hero, to say the least. He is dogged by memories of an undercover stint, in which the criminal underworld lured him in, and never really let him go. He is a self-confessed skirt-chaser whose marriage to wife Kate has never fully recovered from his first, and subsequent, infidelities. He snorts coke (recreationally) and has far too much in common with the heavyweight criminals he polices.
But there's something undeniably appealing about Cass Jones, even when there shouldn't be. He is very aware of his various vices, even embarrassed by them. He believes himself to be irredeemable - a lifetime of bad choices and stupid mistakes and he's all but written himself off. He is his own underdog, and you can't help but hope that he finds something within himself that is worth fighting for.
Despite all of his negatives, Cass Jones is a damn good cop. Not least of all because he feels an obligation to the victims whose murders he investigates. He imagines those victims are clawing at him, their hands always picking at his clothes as they beg for his attention and delivery of justice.
It's an eerie image that Jones conjures for himself; but it illustrates his relentlessness, and the heavy burden he places on himself to do the right thing. If not for himself, then for the dead whose afterlife is entrusted to him.
Jones's already complicated life is further shattered when his younger brother commits murder-suicide; killing his wife, son and then himself. Jones is dragged into the murky depths of his brother's murderous motivations - and Jones comes perilously close to the breaking point when he starts seeing his dead brother's ghost.
What is this eerie apparition trying to communicate to Cass? And how does his brother's death link to `The Bank' and the `Lord of Flies' serial killer?
This book is an absolute feast of genre. It is a thriller, but with heavy supernatural undertones that undercut the murder-mystery and make it all the more sinister and intriguing. Pinborough evokes such a bleak setting and her characters are so gray that her writing is reminiscent of noir 'hardboiled' fiction. And certain aspects are also quite Shakespearean; like Cass's dead brother haunting him from beyond the grave being Hamlet-esque in reference. Pinborough is quite masterful in her marrying of these various genres and sub-genres, making the book a truly exciting read.
Pinborough can write gritty and gruesome with the best of them, but it's her over-arcing conspiracy/thriller plot that will lure you in and ensure that `A Matter of Blood' stays with you long after you've put the book down.
In `A Matter of Blood' Pinborough has built a very bleak future that is entirely too close for comfort. She weaves a tangled web that I cannot wait to unravel in the next two books of the `God-Faced Dogs' trilogy.
on July 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
It is the near future but not so different to the one we live in now. Everything and everyone seems to have links to The Bank - the massive, often mysterioeus institution at the heart of all things financial and possibly otherwise.
Our hero, Cass Jones, is investigating two crimes - a botched gangland hit that resulted in the death of two young schoolboys, and the murders by a serial killer 'the man of flies'. Then, just when things can't get any worse Jones gets the news that his brother, who works for The Bank has killed himself and his family in an apparent murder suicide.
As bad as it can get? No, no,no, no, no - On investigation Cass Jones finger print is found on the gun used to kill his brother and family (along with other incriminating evidence).
This is a very dark, sinister and quite gritty crime story which pitches somewhere between horror and urban fantasy but is probably closer to urban fantasy. As the first book in the Dog-Faced Gods trilogy it tells a good story but leaves you with more questions than answers and sets things up nicely for book 2.
The hero character is flawed, as you would expect but is also, I believe, a lot more than he seems to be (more than even he knows). How this series is going to pan out, I wouldn't even want to guess but I can assure you of one thing - it's gonna be a hell of a lot of fun finding out!