It is my absolute pleasure to share my review of Force of Hate, the brand new DS Jo Howe thriller from Graham Bartlett. It’s out today so a massive happy publication day to Graham too. I loved the author’s debut book, Bad for Good, so have been really looking forward to this follow up. It didn’t disappoint. My thanks to publishers Allison and Busby for the advance copy via Netgalley. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
When a firebomb attack at a Brighton travellers’ site kills women and children, Chief Superintendent Jo Howe has strong reason to believe the new, dubiously elected, far-right council leader is behind the murders.
Against the direct orders of her chief constable, Jo digs deeper into the killings. She uncovers a criminal ring of human trafficking and euthanasia all leading to a devastating plot which threatens thousands of lives and from which the murderous politician looks sure to walk away scot-free.
My, oh my, oh my. Where do I even begin? Well, I guess I can start with the obvious – just buy this book. You know it makes sense. And while you’re at it, if you haven’t already, buy and read book one as I promise you will enjoy them both. I’m not sure that either does anything to help with any campaigns that Brighton Tourist Board may be running to attract visitors, but I’ve been assured that this book is just fiction and the streets are much safer and the people much friendlier than you might think after reading this book. Graham Bartlett draws forth a much darker and seedier side to Brighton than reputation may suggest. And I’m sure that there are some nefarious goings on in town, but hopefully not as twisted, hateful or dramatic as this. Just the kind of book that is right up my street, obviously.
If you have read book one, Bad For Good, and thought that the author couldn’t be any harder on his protagonist, Chief Superintendent Jo Howe- think again. There are very senior, very serious, forces working against her once again, but this time it turns personal. There is a new council in town, a group of pro-Brexit, anti-immigration, ‘Make Britain Great’ again bunch of, quite frankly, nutters, and they are stoking up all the hatred and prejudice that Brighton has been hiding. Drawing upon some of the strongest and most heinous of attitudes and hatred that has started to show it’s face in recent years, all behaviours that have been emboldened by Brexit and, dare I suggest, the more right-wing attitudes of some of our present government, Graham Bartlett takes readers into a dark world, where hate speech is starting to become the norm and any one not of ‘normal’ behaviour (i.e. white, preferably male, English born … you know the drill) is fair game for violence and intimidation.
With attempts to oust the local traveller community, attacks on mosques and a plan to ban Pride (in Brighton! I know!) There is another story which flows through the heart of the book, drawing on the subject of forced labour, both of a sexual and non-sexual nature. There is another story which flows through the heart of the book, drawing on the subject of forced labour, both of a sexual and non-sexual nature. You can see pretty quickly where the book is heading, and it’s not a pretty or comfortable place to be. None of the violence is necessarily gratuitous in nature – that is kept mercifully off the page, but we are left in no doubt as to what has occurred, and the impact is very powerful. That mixture of sympathy and sadness, matched by the sense of hate loathing that I developed for the antagonists in this book.
I really like Jo Howe as a character. In the face of overwhelming corruption and pressure from those in charge to look the other way or to make less of an effort just because a victim may be Muslim, an immigrant or a traveller, she stands strong, refusing to be intimidated and working always for justice and the fate of the victims in this story. It takes quite a personal toll on her this time around, the costs of her defiance threefold – physical, emotional and potentially career ending. She has some great support around her – Bob Heaton and Gary Hedges being two people I really have grown to like. They are very different in personality, but you do feel that both are on the side of good, even if Gary isn’t quite as adept at the politics game as an officer of his rank perhaps should be. Bob is superb, and a perfect ally for Jo, but as a team, the three of them make this book really enjoyable, especially if you think they are going to triumph over the bad guys. Wouldn’t be the first time after all.
Force of Hate is a very timely and topical novel, with a scary edge of plausibility which makes you stop and think. The pacing is top notch, keeping tension and action balanced against the need to tell the victims, and Officer’s, stories in a meaningful way. The author’s own experience no doubt helped in keeping that sense of authenticity, whilst knowing that the odd regulation needs to be cast aside in order to aid the dramatic premise of the story. I’m hoping that the lions share of this book comes from his imagination, although I’m also sure that over the course of his career he has met more than the odd character from whom he was able to draw inspiration. Then again, in the world of hate we seem to be living in, you don’t have to scroll far down social media to see this people do exist. As I said before – scarily palusible.
I ate this book up in a single day, completely engrossed in the story, the tension and the fates of the characters, especially Jo and one of the immigrants, Ajee. And as for that ending. High tension, pulse pounding final chapters ending with a scene that made me both smile and sad. I can only wonder what Graham Bartlett is going to treat us to next. Definitely recommended.
About the Author
Graham Bartlett rose to become chief superintendent and the divisional commander of Brighton and Hove police. His first non-fiction book Death Comes Knocking was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller, which he then followed with Babes in the Wood. He co-wrote these books with bestselling author, Peter James. Bartlett is also a police procedural and crime advisor helping scores of authors and TV writers inject authenticity into their work.
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