Simms, Chris - 'Scratch Deeper'
This is the first in a projected series of novels featuring Detective Constable Iona Khan who is half Scottish and half Pakistani; she was born in Scotland but spent most of her life in Manchester.She finds herself on her first day in the Greater Manchester Police Counter Terrorism Unit being left to her own devices to investigate a query raised by a group of tunnel explorers called the Sub-Urban Explorers who became concerned when someone of perceived Middle Eastern origin tries to join their number and get details of tunnels under Central Manchester at the time of a Labour Party Conference at the Manchester Centre. The rest of the Counter Terrorism Unit are focusing on the conference itself above ground and DC Khan is left to deal with the potential threat mostly by herself with support from police colleagues outside the Counter Terrorism Unit, the CCTV operators and the academic supervisor of the potential terrorist when he was a student. The situation becomes more complex when the cousin of the potential terrorist is linked to the murder of a British Law Lord in Mauritius – the cousin came to visit the UK and now the potential terrorist and his cousin have disappeared.
This novel does keep your attention as the plot moves along reasonably quickly with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged – although even at around 260 pages, the novel could be trimmed a teensy bit.
There is a lot of useful character background in terms of developing the supporting cast, for example there is conflict between Iona's sort-of-ex-boyfriend and her new boss going back to when they were both in the Army in Iraq. This with her family background means that we see Iona as existing in a realistic world leaving plenty of room for future novels to spin out from this backdrop.
Overall, SCRATCH DEEPER is a good police procedural with an interesting and engaging lead character, about whom I would be interested in reading more.
Mark Bailey, Northern Ireland