The Disappeared (Coroner Jenny Cooper Series)

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9780330458375: The Disappeared (Coroner Jenny Cooper Series)

Hall is a screenwriter, producer and former criminal barrister. Educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Worcester College, Oxford, he lives in Monmouth shire with his wife and two sons. Aside from writing, his main passion is the preservation and planting of woodland. In his spare moments, he is mostly to be found amongst trees.

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About the Author:

M. R. Hall is a screenwriter, producer and former criminal barrister. Educated at Hereford Cathedral School and Worcester College, Oxford, he lives in Monmouthshire with his wife and two sons. Aside from writing, his main passion is the preservation and planting of woodland. In his spare moments, he is mostly to be found among trees. The Disappeared is the second novel in M. R. Hall's twice CWA Gold Dagger shortlisted Coroner Jenny Cooper series. Also available in the Coroner Jenny Cooper series: The Coroner, The Redeemed, The Flight, The Chosen Dead and short story The Innocent. Discover more at www.m-r-hall.com; facebook.com/MRHallAuthor; @MRHall_books

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

During her six months as coroner for the Severn Vale District, Jenny Cooper had known only a handful of corpses to remain unidentified for more than a day or two. Jane Doe, or JD0110, had been wrapped in her white plastic shroud in the refrigerator's bottom drawer at the Vale hospital's mortuary for a little over a week. Owing to the large backlog of bodies awaiting postmortem, she remained unopened and unexamined.

She had been washed up on the English side of the Severn estuary at the mouth of the Avon, sucked in with the tide and deposited naked on a mudbank a little downstream from where the M5 motorway thundered across the river. She was blond, five feet eight inches tall, had no body hair, and had been partially eaten by gulls. There was little left of the soft tissue of her abdomen and breasts, and in common with all corpses left open to the elements for any length of time, she had empty sockets where her eyes had once been. For the purposes of identification Jenny had insisted that glass ones be fitted. An unnatural blue, they gave her face a dumb, doll-like quality.

Alison Trent, the coroner's officer, had arranged for a number of potential identifiers to attend the mortuary late on a Friday afternoon, but at the last minute she had been called to a supermarket depot, where the bodies of three young African men had been discovered in a refrigerated trailer amongst a cargo of beef carcasses imported from France. Rather than leave the families in suspense, Jenny reluctantly left the office early to preside at the mortuary herself.

It was the final week of January; freezing sleet slanted from a gunmetal sky. It was not yet four o'clock and daylight had all but bled away. Jenny arrived to find a group of a dozen or so waiting in the unmanned reception area of the mortuary building at the rear of the hospital. The antique radiators were either not switched on or were broken. As the couples amongst them whispered to one another, their breath emerged in wispy clouds. Most were middle-aged parents who wore expressions of dread masking deeper feelings of guilt and shame. How did it come to this? their grim, lined faces seemed to say.

Since there was no assistant available to help conduct the viewings, Jenny was forced to address the group in the manner of a schoolteacher, instructing them to take it in turns to pass through the swinging doors and along the corridor to the refrigerator at the far end. She warned them that the body might not be instantly recognizable and provided the details of a private laboratory which would take their DNA samples and compare them with that of the Jane Doe: it entailed a modest expense but not one her meager budget would extend to. They dutifully noted down the company's email address and phone number, except for one of them, Jenny noticed, who did not. Nor did he enter his details onto the list of those wishing to be informed in the event that other unidentified bodies surfaced. Instead, the tall, lean man, somewhere in his midfifties, stood away from the huddle, his slender, sun-weathered face expressionless, his only sign of anxiety the occasional raising of his hand to smooth his short black hair streaked with gray. Jenny noticed his arresting green eyes and hoped he wasn't the one whose tears would spill onto the tiled floor.

There were always tears.

The building was arranged to maximize the visitors' trauma. Their twenty-yard journey through the mortuary required them to pass an extended row of gurneys, each bearing a corpse wrapped in an envelope of shiny white plastic. The stale air was heavy with the smell of decay, disinfectant, and an illicit hint of cigarette smoke. One after another, three separate couples made the walk along the corridor and steeled themselves to look down on the bare head and shoulders of the Jane Doe, her skin now starting to yellow and take on a papery texture. And one after another they shook their heads, their expressions of relief mixed with uncertainty and the fear of similar ordeals to follow.

The man with green eyes did not carry himself like the others. His footsteps approached briskly; his manner was abrupt and businesslike yet somehow seemed to cover a sadness or uncertainty that Jenny read as regret. Without flinching, he looked down at the Jane Doe's face, studied her for a moment, then shook his head decisively. Curious, Jenny asked him whom he was looking for. In a cultured transatlantic accent he explained briefly that his stepdaughter had been traveling in the UK and had failed to make contact for several weeks. Her last email was sent from an internet cafe in Bristol. The police had told him about the body. Before Jenny could find a pretext to extend the conversation, he turned and left as quickly as he had come.

Mr. and Mrs. Crosby arrived after the main group. He was in his late fifties and dressed in the business suit that befitted a high-level professional or businessman; she was several years younger and had the well-preserved features and softer manner of a woman who had not been ground down by life in the workplace. With them came a young man in his late twenties, also dressed formally in a suit and tie. Mr. Crosby introduced him stiffly as Michael Stevens, his daughter's boyfriend. The term seemed to embarrass him: a father not yet ready to surrender the affections of his grown-up daughter. Jenny offered a sympathetic smile and watched them gaze down at the body, take in the contours of the staring, lifeless face, exchange glances, and shake their heads.

"No, it's not Anna Rose," Mrs. Crosby said with a trace of doubt. "Her hair isn't that long."

The statement seemed to satisfy her husband, but the young man was stealing another glance, wise enough to know, Jenny could tell, that the dead can look deceptively different from the living.

"The eyes are glass," she said, "so the color might not be the same. There are no distinguishing marks and the body was completely depilated."

Mr. Crosby's eyes flitted questioningly towards her.

"She has no body hair," his wife explained.

He gave a dismissive grunt."It's not her," Michael Stevens said finally. "No, it's definitely not her."

"If you're at all unsure, I'd advise you to take a DNA test," Jenny said to the parents.

"We adopted Anna Rose," Mrs. Crosby said, "but I expect we can find something of hers. A hairbrush would do, wouldn't it?"

"A hair sample would be fine."

Mr. Crosby offered a terse thank-you and placed a hand in the small of his wife's back, but as he made to lead her away she turned to Jenny.

"Anna Rose has been missing for ten days. She's a physics graduate; she works at Maybury with Mike. She didn't have any problems; she seemed perfectly happy with life." Mrs. Crosby paused briefly to collect herself. "Do you ever come across that?"

Mr. Crosby, embarrassed at his wife's naivety, lowered his eyes to the floor. Mike Stevens glanced uncertainly between his missing girlfriend's parents. There was alarm in his eyes. He was out of his depth.

"No. Not often," Jenny said. "In my experience, suicide -- if that is what's in your mind -- is invariably preceded by depression. If you were close to the person, I think you would know."

"Thank you," Mrs. Crosby said. "Thank you."

Her husband steered her away.

Mike Stevens glanced briefly at Jenny in such a way that she assumed he had a question of his own, but whether from shyness or family protocol, he kept it to himself and followed the Crosbys out.

As they disappeared from view, Jenny vaguely recalled an item she had heard on the radio about a young woman who had gone missing from her home in Bristol -- a trainee at Maybury, the decommissioned nuclear power station that sat three miles east of the Severn Bridge. Maybury and the other three retired stations on the estuary had been much discussed in the local media lately: a new generation of scientists was being recruited to decommission the fifty-year-old reactors and build the new ones that had been given the go-ahead by the government. Listening to the heated phone-in debates, Jenny had felt a stirring of her teenage idealism, evoking memories of weekend trips with fellow students to peace camps outside American airbases. It seemed strange to her that a generation later a young woman would embark on a career in an industry which she had spent her formative years believing represented all that was corrupt and dangerous in the world.

Jenny slipped on a latex glove, pulled the fold of plastic over the Jane Doe's face, and pushed the heavy drawer shut. After five months of the mortuary's being staffed exclusively by a string of unreliable temps, a new full-time pathologist was arriving on Monday. Jenny looked forward to receiving prompt postmortem reports and not having to waste her afternoons with tasks that his staff should have been assigned to. Professional dignity had been hard to maintain in a cash-strapped coroner's office, and though she had now seen many hundreds of corpses in every conceivable state of dismemberment and decay, being close to dead bodies still terrified her.

She disposed of the spent glove and hurried as quickly as she could on her narrow heels out into the sharp air. She had an appointment to keep.

Death, and her uneasy relationship with it, occupied most of the time she had spent with Dr. Allen in the consulting room at Chepstow hospital during their fortnightly early evening meetings. Progress had been slow and insights limited, but Jenny had managed to keep to the regime of antidepressants and beta-blockers and had largely respected his injunction forbidding alcohol and tranquilizers. Though by no means cured, her generalized anxiety disorder had, for the previous five months, been chemically contained.

The fresh-faced Dr. Allen, as punctilious as ever, reached for the thick black notebook he reserved exclusively for her sessions. He turned to the previous entry and carefully read it through. Jenny waited patiently, prepared with polite replies to the questions about her son, Ross, with which he usually opened. After a short while she began to sense that something was different today. Dr...

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Book Description Pan MacMillan, United Kingdom, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. New Edit/Cover. Language: English . Brand New Book. Coroner Jenny Cooper investigates .Two missing students. One sinister cover-up. Two young British students, Nazim Jamal and Rafi Hassan vanish without a trace. The police tell their parents that the boys had been under surveillance, that it was likely they left the country to pursue their dangerous new ideals. Seven years later, Nazim s grief-stricken mother is still unconvinced. Jenny Cooper is her last hope. Jenny is finally beginning to settle into her role as Coroner for the Severn Valley; the ghosts of her past that threatened to topple her, banished to the sidelines once more. But as the inquest into Nazim s disappearance gets underway, the stink of corruption and conspiracy becomes clear .As the pressure from above increases, a code of silence is imposed on the inquest and events begin to spiral out of all control, pushing Jenny to breaking point. For how could she have known that by unravelling the mysteries of the disappeared, she would begin to unearth her own buried secrets? Enjoyed The Disappeared? Read the rest of the Coroner Jenny Cooper Series: The Coroner, The Redeemed, The Flight, The Chosen Dead, The Burning. Praise for M. R. Hall s Coroner Jenny Cooper series Fasten your seatbelts for a quality thriller .Hall s Gold Dagger-nominated books, quite simply, get better each time. Part of it is the former barrister and TV producer s ability to structure and deliver a thriller that has you keep turning the pages. But Hall is also a hit upon a genuinely fascinating aspect of the justice system .The most compelling element of Hall s books, however, is Cooper herself .It is wonderful stuff, chillingly plausible Independent on Sunday As premises go, this one s a killer .It s a terrific series, meticulously researched, sharply plotted and peopled with sympathetic characters, led by Cooper, who is always aware of the human consequences of failure Financial Times Ed McBain semi-inaugurated the forensics genre, but Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs parleyed his innovations into stratospheric sales. But the field has not become an exclusively female sorority -- or an American domain. A highly talented male writer has offered a challenge . Independent An edge-of-the-seat thriller .this fourth novel in the excellent Jenny Cooper series should come with a health warning Irish Independent A brilliant, original and gripping crime novel -- I can t wait for M. R. Hall s next one! Sophie Hannah Hall shows with aplomb that a coroner is just as able to become a detective as the forensic pathologists of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs Sunday Times Breathlessly enjoyable The Times. Bookseller Inventory # AAU9780330458375

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