Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Bad Blood

Title: Bad Blood
Author: Amanda Coetzee
Pages: 199
ISBN: 9781770101012
Genre: Crime/Thriller
Source: Received from publisher

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An eight-year-old boy is abandoned by his mother at a fairground and raised by a clan of Irish Travellers as one of their own. Given the name 'Harry' (as in any Tom, Dick or Harry) he carves out a reputation as a young, bare knuckle boxer who never backs down, and earns himself the clan name 'Badger'.

Eight years on, Harry severs all ties with his clan and in a final act of rebellion joins the London Metropolitan Police Force. Just as Harry believes he has left his clan roots and 'Badger' behind him, he is sent by his superiors to establish a connection with a clan living on an informal land settlement in Bedford. A Traveller child named Mikey has been abducted and the clan is refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

Harry pairs up with Emily, an idealistic social services liaison officer, to investigate the case. Together they uncover a string of gruesome child murders and abductions dating back to 1985. Badger finds himself drawn deeper into clan life and he is ultimately forced to confront the truth about his own conflicted childhood if he is to save Mikey from becoming another victim of a twisted serial killer.

After reading nothing but science fiction for the last three weeks I needed a change of pace. As luck would have it a review copy of Bad Blood arrived just as I was contemplating what to tackle next. Perfect timing!

I started reading the first few pages and was completely hooked before I had even reached the end of the first chapter. I simply couldn’t put it down and finished it in one sitting (grumbling at the people who dared to interfere with my reading time).

Bad Blood is the debut novel of South African author Amanda Coetzee. While she lives in South Africa the novel is set in Bedford, England where she grew up. This came as somewhat of a surprise since I expected it to be set locally.

The novel kicks off with a child being abandoned in the prologue and follows that scene with the kidnapping and murder of a young boy. In both cases the author manages to perfectly portray the emotions involved - the desperation of the mother abandoning her child, the fear of the kidnapped child and the evil menace of the killer.

Her writing style is easy to read and sets a frenetic pace. The dialogue stands out and is very well done. I particularly liked the Irish accents used by the Travellers (gypsies). The characters are well written and engaging and, as mentioned earlier, she has a knack for showing their emotions making them even more believable.

I found the portrayal of the lifestyle of the Traveller community very interesting. They have a communal approach to life which causes them to be ostracized and discriminated against, yet what sets them apart is also what gives them their strength. Having grown up as a Traveller the main character, Detective Inspector Harry O’ Connor, has to act as a bridge between them and the authorities. In the process he has to face his own past and reconcile with the people he turned his back on.

Ultimately the novel revolves around Harry and his search for self. Since his abandonment as a child he has had to cope with a sense of rejection. Not knowing who his parents were has left him scarred. As a result he feels that he doesn’t belong anywhere and sabotages his relationships with other people in order to keep them from getting too close. In the end he realises that you can’t outrun your past and that there’s far more to you than just the blood that runs through your veins.

The Verdict:
I really enjoyed reading this. The race against time to save Mikey, the Traveller boy, made for gripping reading and had me on the edge of my seat throughout. My only criticism would be that I felt the identity of the killer and his connection to Harry was too predictable and revealed too quickly. That limited the impact of the plot twist somewhat, but also added a deeper dimension to the final confrontation between him and the killer.

If you like the Criminal Minds television show or authors like Ian Rankin and Micheal Connelly, then you will love this. Amanda Coetzee is definitely an author to keep an eye on!

Read my interview with Amanda Coetzee

Rating: 7/10


  1. Wow this sounds really great! I need to get my hands on a copy! Also sounds like something Niecole would enjoy :)

  2. This sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing, Rae
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