This is the second of Mark Dawson’s Beatrix Rose trilogy, the first of which I reviewed here: http://thecrimenovelreader.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/in-cold-blood-by-mark-dawson.html Blood Moon Rising finds our heroine, Beatrix, on the trail of her third target, a mercenary now in the employ of a private military corporation in Iraq. Once again she goes about her job with ruthless efficiency.
There’s a lot to like about this novel. Beatrix is well drawn and he describes her weakening state – she is terminally ill with cancer – effectively. There is a well considered sub-plot in which the British Government are keen to help her in her mission, on the proviso that she rescues a company whistle-blower for them. The man has evidence of human rights abuses committed by the company in Iraq and the British want to publicise this so that the Americans lose their contracts. The idea is that these will be put out to tender and British companies can win them. Too often in fiction the US/UK are portrayed as inseparable allies and Dawson deserves credit for portraying the more murky reality that sometimes the two undercut and work against each other.
The bulk of the action takes place in Iraq and while Dawson writes with assurance, unfortunately the setting didn’t ring true to me. Bizarrely for a book written in the current climate, there is no mention of ISIS. Instead the book takes place around Basra and Muqtada al-Sadr is repeatedly mentioned as the leader of the insurgency. Yet the novel is clearly set after British and American troops have withdrawn and furthermore, al-Sadr stopped his involvement in insurgent activity in 2008. But the real problem for me in the setting is that westerners are able to move around so freely. Even today Iraq is a dangerous place, yet Beatrix is able to saunter up to the PMC’s headquarters in Basra and plant a tracker under one of their vehicles – the parking lot being open to the sidewalk, no fences or coils of razorwire, no berms or concrete barricades to prevent suicide bombers. Similarly vehicles driven by PMC personnel and their families drive without convoys. In one scene the wife of Beatrix’s mercenary target takes off in her own car. No one tries to stop, none of the guards race after her. This is all highly implausible.
This issue with the setting is unfortunate, because like the novel that preceded it, Blood Moon Rising is an assured piece of writing. It’s tense, keeps you turning the pages and is incredibly entertaining.