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The Blacknock Woman    by Brian Cooper order for
Blacknock Woman
by Brian Cooper
Order:  USA  Can
Constable, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by G. Hall

The Blacknock Woman is a British police procedural, the sixth Lubbock and Tench mystery. These books are faintly reminiscent of Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn / Frank Chee novels, since Lubbock is the senior detective with Tench an underling learning from the master. In this episode, Lubbock is retired, but still plays an active role looking over his young colleague's shoulders. The story is set in 1951 before all the modern tools of FAXes, cell phones and computer databases, when detection was slower-paced. Cooper uses the Norfolk coastal area to good effect and conveys the claustrophobic, insular feel of the small marsh villages, whose residents are reluctant to talk to 'furriners'.

Tench and his people are called to the village of Blakeney when a young woman's body is found washed up on Blacknock Marsh. Within a few days there are two more bodies in this formerly quiet, low crime area. One of the biggest puzzles is that of determining who the young woman is, since she had recently arrived in the area and was renting a cottage from the retired Lubbock. There are indeed many enjoyable false leads and interesting detours. As is often the case with traditional mysteries, the author does not reveal many details of his characters' lives - though he does portray an interesting set of detectives and police constables including a female detective struggling not to be relegated to 'women's police work'.

However, Cooper does an excellent job of creating well-drawn characters, even in the minor players. One who is especially memorable, is an aged man who faithfully runs a toy train railroad in his house, complete with small canteen area and strict adherence to the late 1940's train timetable. Another is a long time Tench friend and mystery author, who helps him sort through the myriad of clues, including an exotic connection to India right before the dissolution of the Raj. If you like traditional police mysteries without all the emotional and psychological bells and whistles introduced recently, then you will enjoy this book's methodical and old-fashioned crime solving.
Note: The review was based on an unabridged Soundings audio recording. Hardcover and paperback versions are available from the UK.

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