Review: Ruthless Crimes – Sophie Allen #9 (Michael Hambling)

Ruthless Crimes is the ninth book in the Sophie Allen series. As usual, I’m coming into the series at this book having not read the previous books.

A man hurrying to catch a train for work finds a body in one of the carriages. The authorities are called and the dead man identified. problem: he doesn’t seem to exist. The team begins digging around. I was a bit confused, because while this is tagged with Sophie Allen as the presumed lead of the series, she doesn’t show up until chapter four.

As they trace the dead man, with Allen talking to the higher-ups as it seems the dead man may have been an undercover operative, a woman in a secure facility in another jurisdiction is killed by someone acting as a nurse. As with the dead man, the dead woman seems to also be a ghost. The teams intersect and there is more talking with intelligence types, who think this was some kind of off the books operation dealing with immigrants landing in the country.

During all this, an overloaded boat of immigrants is making its way to shore, capsizing as it gets into the breaks at the shore. Several people die, including a couple of children. The rest are taken to the hospital.

The authorities continue to investigate. The head of the off the books op is apparently kidnapped, held for several days, and manages to escape. She can’t think of any leaks, etc., via which anyone would know about the op or who is running it, and seems a tad sketchy.

More dead bodies show up – they seem to be part of the smuggling crew rather than random murders.

Eventually, it all comes to a head and the perps are caught.

I did not like this book at all. Not because of the content. That was fine, even with the author throwing his politics into things via long monologues by characters. There are more nuanced ways to do this that don’t involve the book pausing so a character can preach a the reader. It simply was not captivating in a way a book should be: too much politicking, as noted, too much characters telling one another the story and telling each other things they already know, just so the reader will. There were also some odd moments where the cops didn’t seem to be terribly smart: in one very striking instance, one of them wonders how criminals could have obtained falsified passports. Seriously? An officer offers to resign because a woman she had interviewed during the course of the investigation turns out to have been one of the bad guys. Not a happening thing. A house they’ve taped off for forensics is described as deserted, almost neglected, yet one officer has his service weapon out. Why, if the place is deserted and only other cops are present?

Speaking of -ly, I have never been one for the hard and fast rule of going through a manuscript and ejecting all adverbs. At the 80% point in this book, I was ready to embrace it fully. for this book, though, because by that time I was supremely annoyed by this book.

There was far too much telling versus showing in this book. Don’t tell me “(Name) could see something was wrong as (Other Name) came toward him.” How? Were they frowning? Brows furrowed? Walking briskly? Running? Scanning the surroundings for a threat? Just ending a phone call? Who knows? This happens A LOT.  Like the deserted, almost neglected house above. A couple of paragraphs after that, the author does give some details as to how the place looks. Dump the tell-y “looked deserted” line and just go with the description, as that will show the reader the same thing, instead of telling the reader and then showing it.

The author gets points for diversity, and for having a mystery involving current events like immigration and systemic racism. I just think the story could have used another developmental editing pass.

Two and a half stars out of five, rounded down to two.

Thanks to Joffee Books and NetGalley for the review copy.

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