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Owen, Charlie - 'Two Tribes'
Paperback: 384 pages (Apr. 2010) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 0755345711

TWO TRIBES by Charlie Owen is the fourth in a series of blistering police procedurals set in 1970s in the fictional North Manchester new town of Handstead. Handstead is a festering armpit of a town; coppers are sent there as a punishment and rarely escape, eventually taking a curious pride in the challenging nature of their working environment.

The book focuses on D Group, the detective constables at street level, and its senior investigating officer Chief Inspector Dan Harrison, as the group collectively try to maintain some sort of order on the streets of Handstead, with limited help from the career obsessed senior officers who tend to operate at a remove from reality. D Group contains a bunch of particularly reprobate coppers, rejoicing in nicknames such as Psycho, Pizza, and the Blister, some of whom seem to behave in barely distinguishable manner to the suspects they are chasing.

At the beginning of TWO TRIBES, a National Front type organisation called the Albion Army, are massing outside a Sikh owned factory, determined to run it out of business after racist employee Moffatt, is sacked. The police are struggling to contain them, much to their embarrassment as the local media and television news are covering the story. In the meantime the police are trying to catch a particularly vicious rapist, with limited forensic evidence to assist, as well as dealing with a serial flasher in a Zorro mask on top of the usual low level crime and unpleasant domestic incidents. Under pressure from the top, the senior officers start to seriously consider an attempt to rout the Albion Army based on training several hundred officers in the tactics used in the film Zulu.

TWO TRIBES is a rollicking pacy police procedural that is not for the faint-hearted, making Life on Mars look like Dixon of Dock Green. In the tradition of the best police procedurals, action is seem from the perspective of many of the police team, with regularly shifting point of view between chapters. Characterisation and dialogue are snappy, and the officers and their personal lives are sharply differentiated, an impressive achievement in such a fast moving book. I would thoroughly recommend this series for those who fancy a walk on the wild side of the police procedural.

Laura Root, England
July 2010

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 2/07/2010 19:16