These are the first two books of a trilogy. They are also, I understand, a spin-off from an earlier series by Mark Dawson featuring a certain John Milton. Here, though, Milton is only a name in the background. I haven't read those other novels so I don't know whether Beatrix Rose, the protagonist in this trilogy, featured in the previous series. It doesn't seem to matter.
The great thing about these two books is the setting. The setting of the first, In Cold Blood, is northern Kenya and Somalia – exactly where the horrific massacre of the hundred and fifty Christian students by al-Shabaab at Garissa University took place a week or so ago. And part of the story is actually set in Dabaab refugee camp, the biggest refugee camp in the world and "home" to 300,000 plus refugees from Somalia, which is also in the news: in the wake of the Garissa massacre, the Kenyan government has given the UN High Commission for Refugees just three months to "do something" – at the end of that time they are closing down the camp. All these were simply names to me before I read this book. The description of the sites and the depiction of al-Shabaab in action are vivid, realistic and compelling.
The second book, Blood Moon Rising, is set in Iraq. The title sounds like a vampire story, doesn't it, but sadly what takes place in this novel is all too normal and real and perpetrated by "ordinary" people. Again the same vivid description of the reality of life, this time around the oil field at Rumalia, the third biggest in the world, and again the horrifying reality of how the poor, the people caught in the cross-fire, live.
And the protagonist, the heroine? I'm not going to tell you much, just that she is another all-but-invincible superwoman and that she is out for revenge – they killed her husband and took away her three-year-old daughter – but in this case there is an ever-widening crack in the invincibility: Beatrix is dying of cancer, has only months to live.
Gruesome but gripping. And mind-opening, too. We readers tend to get a little bit cosy (or at any rate I do) with our murders set in more or less civilised societies, our historical novels set in more or less romantic times gone by, and our fantasy worlds of vampires and zombies and wizards and so on. Welcome to the real world.
(Needless to say, I have downloaded the final book of the trilogy, Blood and Roses, and shall be reading it this evening – and quite likely well into the night!)