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Blood and Fire    by Nick Brownlee order for
Blood and Fire
by Nick Brownlee
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Nick Brownlee, who made an excellent thriller debut in Bait, now brings Detective Inspector Daniel Jouma of Coast Province CID and fishing boat skipper (and 'knuckleheaded Geordie ex-copper') Jake Moore back for an encore in Blood and Fire Again set in Mombasa, Kenya, its violent and fast-paced plot lives up to the title.

The action opens on an efficient murder by an assassin, the Ghost, hired by the human-trafficking ring whose 'east African operation was blown wide open' in Bait - they're tying up loose ends. The Ghost keeps on killing throughout the novel, despite the best efforts (which are not actually very impressive) of the FBI. The latter quickly conclude that Jake's partner in his game-fishing company, ex-pat Harry Philliskirk, is a target and move in to protect him.

In the meantime, Daniel Jouma is assigned (by his new boss, Superintendant Elizabeth Simba) the case of a dead former British police sergeant, Lol Quarrie. He's ordered to hand over his investigation of a missing nun to the inexperienced Detective Constable Mwangi. Jouma's ire is further roused when the politicos bring in an officer he despises as a 'dangerous charlatan' to bring the Quarrie case to a speedy conclusion - the man predictably forces a false confession from one of Jouma's witnesses.

In parallel with all this, Jake learns from a group of young eco-warriors of plans by Spurling Developments to tear down Jalawi village (where his bait boy Sammy lives) and build yet another five-star hotel. After the Spurling head honcho is murdered, his corrupt son Bobby gives free rein to the company's thoroughly unscrupulous Security head, Douglas Roarke. Jake gets involved when one of the young protestors is falsely accused of murder.

Though there's quite a tangle of unrelated crimes - and some of the villains seem exaggerated to the point of caricature - Brownlee unravels his plot into a gripping, fast-moving, violent read, and brings matters to a very satisfying conclusion. The cliffhanger of an ending will leave readers anxious for more in the next book in the series, Machete. I will be looking out for it.

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