JO BANNISTER – A Bleeding of Innocents. Frank Shapiro & Liz Graham #1. St. Martin’s Press, US, hardcover, 1993. Macmillan, UK, hc, 1993. Worldwide Library, paperback, 1997.

JO BANNISTER Shapiro & Graham

   Jo Bannister has written other mysteries, and won an EQMM prize, but this is the first of her work that I’ve read. It’s also the first in a new series.

   The police force in Castlemere, England is in disarray. A Detective Inspector has been killed and a Detective Sergeant injured in what may have been a hit and run; or may, as the Sergeant believes, been a deliberate murder engineered by a local racketeer.

   Chief Inspector Shapiro brings in an old colleague, DI Liz Graham, to temporarily replace the slain DI, and she is greeted by the shotgun murder of a retirement home nurse. At the same time, she must try to work with the injured Sergeant, a difficult person who had a close relationship with his slain boss, and who is determined to pin the death on the racketeer he suspects.

   I have a predilection for British police stories, and I’m happy to say that this is a pretty good one. It isn’t of John Harvey or Reginald Hill caliber, but it’s competently done and well written. The third person narrative is straightforward, and shifts among the three police officers.

   Characterization is not really in depth, but sharp enough that Graham and the Sergeant are brought to life decently, though Shapiro was less well developed. The plot was the weakest link, but tolerable.

   I did think that the book ran on a bit at the end after the real denouement, with perhaps a little too much talk, but that’s a minor cavil. On limited exposure, I think Bannister fits comfortably in the middle of the pack with which she’s chosen to run.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #10, November 1993.

       The Shapiro & Graham “Castlemere” series —

1. A Bleeding of Innocents (1993)
2. Sins of the Heart (1994) aka Charisma (US)

JO BANNISTER Shapiro & Graham

3. Burning Desires (1995) aka A Taste for Burning (US)

JO BANNISTER Shapiro & Graham

4. No Birds Sing (1996)
5. Broken Lines (1998)
6. The Hireling’s Tale (1999)
7. Changelings (2000)

   Jo Bannister has also written four books in her Dr Clio Rees (Marsh) and Harry Marsh series; two books with Mickey Flynn; two in a series about columnist Primrose “Rosie” Holland; and nine books featuring Brodie Farrell, a woman who “finds things for a living.” She’s also written nine standalone novels, not all of which are crime related.