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Friday, 1 March 2019

In The Blood by Ruth Mancini


PB Published by Head of Zeus,
7 March 2019.
ISBN: 978-1-78854332-3

As every crime fiction reader knows, there's a wealth of highly competent writers out there, all producing well plotted books with sharply drawn characters and backgrounds that come to life.

But every now and then we stumble across an unfamiliar author whose work seems to come from a different place. I'd hardly read a chapter or two of In the Blood before I realized that Ruth Mancini was writing from the heart.

Her protagonist, Sarah Kellerman, is a criminal defence lawyer. Not only that, she is also the single mum of Ben, a severely disabled five-year-old. Sarah knows all about the juggling act that most working mothers perform every day: the broken nights, the rushed supermarket trips, the problems of finding the right childcare and alleviating the doubts of work colleagues. So when she is asked to prepare a defence for another single mother who stands accused of trying to kill her own child, she is more than willing to pull out a few stops. 

Ellie, the accused mother, isn't an easy person to help. She lives in a run-down flat in an area awash with drugs and violence, denies vehemently that she is responsible for any of the signs that baby Finn has been abused, but refuses to back up her assertions with anything resembling evidence. She claims that the baby's father is supportive, but also claims legal aid to pay her costs. Above all, there is no doubt that she was present when Finn's dialysis line was pulled out, leaving him to bleed almost to death.

Sarah is faced with the almost insuperable task of refuting a mountain of evidence which seems to point to Ellie's guilt, and makes one discovery after another which render the task even harder. At the same time she is battling colleagues who think she is not pulling her weight when she insists on leaving work on time and opting out of night-time duty solicitor call-outs in order to care for Ben. When she meets a man who seems to understand, and who actually proves helpful with her son, it feels like a gift from above – until work and personal life collide. 

Mancini paints an all too lifelike picture of two women driven almost to the edge by circumstances beyond their control, each facing a nightmare situation. Some of the background details – the meltdown in the supermarket, the frantic dash to A & E, the defensive interview with the boss – will ring horribly true to any working mum. The supporting characters too have that essential spark of life, as do the multiple locations in and out of London. 

This was one of those books I found hard to put down. My head told me Ellie was innocent; that's the way the genre works, after all. But my heart was unsure, though desperately hoping it would end well, for both Ellie and Sarah. The reveal, when it came, was a corker. Read it and see for yourself. 
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Reviewer: Lynne Patrick 

Ruth Mancini was born in South-West London and, after graduating, started her career as a marketing executive for a publisher before undertaking a post-graduate diploma in law and retraining as a solicitor. Ruth has spent the past twenty years in and out of courts and police stations, representing those accused of crimes. She still practises as a lawyer for a large criminal law firm with offices in London, conducting advocacy in the courts and defending people arrested at the police station. She also reviews the trial files across the firm and juggles her legal work with writing crime and psychological fiction. Her debut crime thriller In The Blood is a Sunday Times Crime Club pick and a top ten Amazon bestseller. She now lives in Oxford with her husband and two children. Her eldest child is severely autistic and learning disabled and her In The Blood protagonist, lawyer Sarah Kellerman, is also raising a similarly disabled child whilst working full-time. Ruth is also the author of domestic suspense novels The Lies You Tell and His Perfect Lies.

She can be found on Twitter @RuthMancini1
Facebook at www.facebook.com/ruth.mancini.author

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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