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In the Midnight Hour    by Michelle Spring order for
In the Midnight Hour
by Michelle Spring
Order:  USA  Can
Fawcett, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

In the Midnight Hour is the fifth Michelle Spring book about Cambridge (UK) private eye Laura Principal. Though there are many female PI books these days, Spring's mysteries stand out from the crowd. Her plotting is top-notch unlike some that settle for an interesting detective and an appealing setting (such as Cambridge) with the plot merely an afterthought. Spring also uses wonderful visual images and descriptions of the weather to create both a mood and physical setting that place the reader right at the scene.

In this latest story, Laura becomes involved in the troubled lives of the extended Cable family when she is asked to investigate the apparent re-appearance of a long-lost son. Jack Cable is a famed polar explorer whose son was lost at the beach twelve years before. He and his wife Olivia have never given up hope that four-year-old Timmy has somehow surived. When Olivia meets a sixteen-year-old street musician named Liam in Cambridge she is convinced that he is her son. Laura's task is to determine if Liam really is Timmy and, if so, to find out what has happened to him during the intervening twelve years. Of course, this plot is reminicent of Josephine Tey's wonderful classic Brat Farrar. Like Tey's tale, this version also shows the emotional and psychological impact on a family when a missing child is suddenly returned.

Spring does an excellent job of bringing to life all the members of the Cable family. The reader may find herself wishing she could see how BBC would film this for its Mystery television series. If Spring is not quite as successful in her portrayal of Principal herself, this is only a small complaint, since Laura's life and her personal circle of friends are just are not as interesting as the Cable family.

Spring is not in the elite circle of British mystery writers such as P. D. James, Elizabeth George or even Deborah Crombie, but with each successive book she gets closer. Anglophile mystery readers will find her books very rewarding read and look forward to each new one.

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