Bare Skin (DS Jamie Johansson #1), by Morgan Greene

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Morgan Greene for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Approached by the author to review his debut police procedural, I entered the experience with an open mind and high hopes. As soon as DS Jamie Johansson made herself known, I could tell that this would be a gritty story with significant character development and a plot that would propel the piece forward. I was not disappointed with Morgan Greene’s work and hope others will take the time to read it. That being said, you’ll want to block off some time, as this novel will surely pull you in!

Of all the partner pairings within the London Metropolitan Police, that of Detective Sergeants Jamie Johansson and Paul Roper is surely the least likely. DS Johansson is young, lithe, and health conscious, while DS Roper smokes like a chimney and loves his drink. The age gap is also quite significant, but somehow they make it work and find a form symbiosis.

When they are called to investigate the death of a young, homeless man, Johansson and Roper can only suspect it will be another case that adds to the statistics. However, Oliver ‘Ollie’ Hammond presents as a long-time heroin user who appears to have drowned in the river, with a significant amount of torture to his body. Might it have been self-inflicted from years of drug use? That’s the question that no one seems able to answer.

When DS Johansson tracks Ollie back to a shelter, she discovers that he has a girlfriend, Grace, who has been living on the streets with him, battling the same heroin addiction. While there are few leads, once DS Johansson finds Grace, she is in bad shape. Rushed to the hospital with an overdose, she will be of no help to anyone for the time being.

DS Roper takes him job seriously, but is also realistic about the chance that a pair of homeless people will be top priority for the Met. His pig-headedness clashes greatly with his partner, as DS Johansson refuses to give up. She’s sure there is a drug angle here, as many of the dealers and drug kingpins likely have Grace and Ollie on their radars. Working every angle they can, Johansson and Roper discover a possible suspect, though they try to handle things on their own, much to their own demise.

Suspended for putting themselves and other cases in jeopardy, Johansson and Roper go their own ways for the time being. Johansson uses her time away to reflect on some of her own personal problems, including a budding connection to one of the witnesses that has helped shape the case. It’s only when a substantial lead comes to fruition that DSs Johansson and Roper will be called on assist in bringing a ‘big fish’ down. However, not everything caught in the net proves helpful, and this leads to a stunning cliffhanger as the last chapter comes to an end.

Morgan Greene not only has a way with storytelling, but can lure the reader in with a strong plot and some well-developed characters. There was no point during my reading that I was lulled into a sense of boredom, as I was always wanting a little more, turning pages well into the night.

DS Jamie Johansson is a wonderful protagonist and her character is hashed out effectively throughout the story. A transplant from Sweden in her teens, she idolises her father, who was also a detective before he took his own life. The animosity between her parents left Johansson with a gaping hole in her life, something serving on the Met only hopes to fill. While she is a young detective, she has a knack like few others. Her mix of workplace professionalism and desire to better herself through diet and exercise make her a well-rounded character that Greene explores in breakaway moments of the narrative. There is still much to learn about her, making the fact that this is a series with some momentum all the more exciting.

The cast of secondary characters kept me intrigued throughout as well. Greene is able to paint a wonderful picture in this police procedural with strong supporting characters from all walks of life. The police, drug world, and medical folk are all presented in a believable fashion and help to hash out the multi-faceted plot that never seems to lag. With the cliffhanger at the end of the novel, we’ll likely see many of these faces again in the sequel, though how they will impact the story is left to be seen.

This was a great debut novel and Morgan Greene is surely an author worth noting. A strong plot gains momentum throughout with a strong setting on the gritty streets of London. Using some of the darker underbelly of the city, Greene offers the reader something well worth their while. The use of longer chapters pulls the reader in with much plot development, only to be countered with a few short, teasing chapters to keep the ‘a few more pages’ mantra on the lips of many. With a cliffhanger, I have no choice but to reach for the sequel to see how things resolve themselves. In truth, Greene writes so well that I’d be happy to rush to find another DS Jamie Johansson novel no matter the topic!

Kudos, Mr. Greene, for a great beginning to what looks like a gritty series. I hope others stumble upon your work and see just how addictive it can be.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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