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.