Author of the Month

Name: Sarah Pinborough

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: A Matter of Blood

'Cass is the sort of policeman you can warm to on the page but hope you never meet in the flesh.'

This is the very near future. The recession still grips the world, crime is on the rise, financial institutions have collapsed and most governments are now in debt to ‘The Bank’ an institute that has very dark, shady dealings that even the most powerful men are unaware of. But for Detective Inspector Cass Jones that is all very minor compared to the cases he has on his plate. He is drawing a blank over the shooting of two schoolboys as well as hunting a serial killer who has titled himself, ‘The Man of Flies’.

And Cass is not an uncomplicated man, either. His wife loves him and hates him in equal measures and he has also stonewalled his brother who he keeps at arms length - until he is informed that his brother has committed suicide after killing his wife and child. Wracked with guilt, Cass knows his brother would never do such a thing and decides to look into the case which seems to have been concluded all too quickly for his liking. And then Cass starts seeing his dead brother. Not a blur in the corner of his eye – oh no! – Cass can see his brother alright and it is freaking him out.

As Cass delves deeper he finds that what happened to his brother overlaps his other cases. What did his brother, Christian, find that was so intriguing at ‘The Bank’? Who is the elusive and shadowy presence of Mr. Bright? And how is Bright connected to Cass’ parents?

Before all the investigations are finished, Cass will have lost a lot more, been betrayed by those close to him and seen things that simply cannot be human and have to accept that, right from childhood, Cass had a part to play in the huge drama that is now unfolding before him.

This is an explosive new crime thriller from a writer who has previously written horror stories before branching out to crime. I say ‘branching out’ although with ‘A Matter of Blood’, Pinborough appears to have driven a truck through the wall to announce her arrival – such is the brilliance of the first in a planned trilogy which introduces the wonderfully drawn, tortured character of Cass Jones.

Cass is the sort of policeman you can warm to on the page but hope you never meet in the flesh. He loves his wife but can’t help himself being attracted to other women. He drinks too much, likes his drugs and accepts money from criminals to keep them safe from his own kind. He is also the most conscientious cop around and is determined to catch those who steal the lives of others.

Set in the near future where it is even outlawed to smoke in your own car, Pinborough paints a grim and yet all too believable picture of what could be waiting for us round the corner.

A Matter of Blood drew me in immediately. I was captured by Pinborough’s forthright writing and her ability to paint Cass as a chauvinist or as a misunderstood man on the same page is sublime. This novel had heart as well as guts and, for me, brought the characters to vivid life. There is an element of horror/fantasy but I thought it lent more to the plot than detracted from it. Finding out that Cass has been waiting for this moment all his life had me enthralled. Not everything is explained in this first installment – and I can’t wait to read all about Cass’ next exploits. However, Pinborough is relentless (having killed off a favourite character of mine) and she still drops teasers right up until the last page!

A Matter of Blood left me baying for more – about Cass Jones that is, not baying for blood! Although…

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating


1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
I guess everyone has a different answer to that. For me, plot-wise I like to get to the end and not have seen it coming, but then be able to go back and trace how it got there, in a kind of 'Of course!' moment. I hate cheats in a crime book or massive leaps of faith. I have vowed never to write anything where the protagonist happens to see a clue through a car window because an important document has been left there or some such. Admittedly those kind of plot links tend to happen more in TV than novels but they always leave a bad taste with me. Of course, around the bones of the plot there has to be a cast of great characters. Without them, no reader will care about a clever plot.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK and Ireland, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
I'm new to the genre so I guess I'll know better in the next couple of years how well we celebrate it. However, having attended a crime writing convention in Harrogate last year and seeing so many household names there from Lee Child to Val McDermid I would say that the popularity of the genre alone is a form of celebration. Having come from Horror where there are so few household names amongst those working today it certainly seems that crime is celebrated in comparison. Crime and Thriller novels certainly get more book shop shelves!
3) A Matter of Blood is set in the near future. Why did you decide to do that?
I wanted a contemporary setting, but one that was darker than ours and that I could play with a little, without going so far forward that it became a sci-fi novel. I was also intrigued by the gobal sink into recession and how it was affecting people and governments. The world we live in isn't exactly friendly, but I wanted to make it a little meaner and hungrier which suited the arc of the three books. Although I have made some changes to the way the police force works in London, I haven't done anything that would affect the procedural elements of the books. I didn't want any cheats, so there are no new 'miracle' technologies for discovering the identities of killers!
4) You have previously written several horror novels. What decided you to write a serial killer novel?
I've written six horror novels, but to be honest, by the last two I was bored with the formulaic nature required and wanted to try something else. I'd been thinking about moving more towards crime for a couple of years but hadn't come up with the right vehicle in my head. Although A Matter of Blood does have a serial killer in it, I don't see it as a serial killer novel – I see that as simply one aspect of it. I do love a good serial killer though and am fascinated by them in fiction as well as real life stories. They're the real monsters of the world, not vampires or werewolves or the tropes of traditional horror.
5) One of the ‘enemies’ of the novel is ‘The Bank’. Was this influenced by the recent news of the banks making obscene profits in a time of the worst recession in recent history?
Actually, I was plotting the book out at the time when it seemed that the High Street banks were all collapsing and needing bailing out and it was that which led me to the concept of 'The Bank'. Someone always profits from these things and it was those shadowy less publicly familiar groups that intrigued me – the kind of people that governments would potentially go to for money if things got really bad.
6) There are several references to smoking being outlawed even in public, even in people’s cars – a great inconvenience to your detective, Cass Jones who is a chain smoker. Do you think the smoking ban will get even tighter in years to come and does this signify a rebellious streak in Cass?
I used to smoke 20-30 a day until I was thirty and in my heart I will always be a smoker so nearly all my characters seem to do my smoking for me. What I love about the smoking ban is that since cigarettes are so gloriously bad for us all they should really be illegal – more people die from smoking related illnesses than cocaine for instance – but far too much government revenue is created by them, so they clearly can't bring themselves to go that far. I'm not sure how much tighter they can make it before it verges on the ridiculous – maybe no smoking in any public place? Just thinking about that makes me want to start smoking again. I'm not sure that Cass has a rebellious streak as such – he's a little too grimy and grown up for that. I think he's just irreverent- he does what he wants rather than rebels against something.
7) Part of the novel mentions ‘The Glow’. Had you always wanted to involve some form of the supernatural within the novel?
The supernatural is an inherent part of the trilogy – so yes, it was always going to feature. I was particularly influenced by John Connelly and Michael Marshall who have both managed to successfully write thrillers with a supernatural flavour. I didn't want the supernatural to in anyway influence the crime-solving element though, and I think I've achieved that.
8) This is the first of a projected trilogy. Can you give us a taste of the plans you have in store for Cassius Jones?
I've just delivered the second book, The Shadow of the Soul, to my editor and things, to be fair, get worse for Cass in it. Again it has quite a twisty turny plot, but I think whereas A Matter of Blood feels like a crime novel, this one is more of a thriller – in my mind anyway. With writing a trilogy with a finite end rather than a series, there is a definite arc for Cass planned and also for several of the other characters who re-appear.
9) What do you think drives a story best – plot or characters?
To drive a story you need a blend of both. Plot without a good strong cast of characters is equally dull as a good character doing nothing.
10) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
Ah, well I may be about to do a deal for all three books for TV adaptation, so I'll leave the dream scenario aside and keep my fingers crossed for the real one. Although it has to be said I always see Cass Jones as looking somewhat like Clive Owen...but then I do have a thing for Mr Owen! In a dream scenario I would probably like David Fincher to direct it. I love the dark quality of his work. Se7en is I think my favourite crime/thriller film. It's very clever and very dark.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
Oh god, that's such a hard question to answer. Partly because I don't always know when a film has come from a book – I'm not the most widely-read person, especially now that I have to produce two books a year. I think LA Confidential was a very clever and incisive adaptation of James Ellroy's novel, and it may be an obvious choice, but Silence of the Lambs.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
I hope I haven't read it yet!