cover image Desperate Measures

Desperate Measures

Jo Bannister. Minotaur, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-07566-6

In Bannister’s uneven third mystery featuring former security analyst Gabriel Ash and Norbold, England, police officer Hazel Best (after 2014’s Perfect Sins), the pair learn that Ash’s wife and two sons, kidnapped by Somali pirates four years earlier, are alive. The pirates promise to release them if Ash broadcasts his own suicide. With help from his former supervisor at the Home Office, he fakes his death and goes into hiding while intelligence agencies pursue the pirates. Meanwhile, Hazel becomes suspicious of his wife’s account of captivity and launches her own investigation. Bannister relies on stereotypes and clichés for the shadowy Somali pirates, and other characters lack nuance and depth. The narrative often becomes bogged down in overabundant explication. Still, damaged Ash and chipper Hazel are a compelling-enough duo to keep readers turning pages. Ash’s talking dog, Patience, will delight animal lovers, and a subplot involving a homeless teen provides a heartwarming contrast to Ash’s conniving wife. Agent: Jane Gregory, Gregory & Company (U.K.). (Dec.)