The Disappeared by M. R. Hall

read by Fenella Woolgar

This is the second outing for Coroner for the Severn Vale, Jenny Cooper, whose divorce and nervous breakdown are still troubling her - and affecting her personal life and the way she conducts her career.

In The Disappeared, two young students, Nazim Jamal and Rafi Hassan, vanish without trace in the middle of their studies at Bristol University. Some of their course had involved working with or with access to radioactive materials. The men were under surveillance by the security service, so the police act on the belief that the students left the country in order to learn 'terrorist' skills in Pakistan.

Seven years after her student son goes missing, Cooper is approached by the distraught mother of one of the 'disappeared'. She wants him declared dead so that the Coroner will open an investigation in his 'death'.

The responsibilities of a Coroner are accompanied by the investigative duties of the police, with some of the same powers. The police themselves, however, are not willing to cooperate. Faced by official obstruction and opposition, Cooper seeks the aid, at first reluctantly, of a struck-off lawyer, whose career is abruptly halted when he begins to step on the toes of the police. Pressure from the powers-that-be intensifies, and a code of silence is placed on the inquest. As Cooper works around her personal problems together with those imposed on her by the immutable and the unaccountable bullies of the UK security services, some murky and conflicting truths emerge, bringing to light the Coroner's particular demons.

Bristol and South Wales provide the backdrop for this first-rate procedural, which combines the pace of a taut thriller with the fascinating psychological portrait of a woman battling a tortured past.


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