The Tinderbox

The Tinderbox by Jo Bannister

ISBN10: 0727863878
ISBN13: 978-0727863874
Author: Jo Bannister
Book title: The Tinderbox
Publisher: Severn House Publishers; First Edition edition (September 11, 2006)
Language: English
Category: Thrillers & Suspense
Size PDF: 1339 kb
Size ePub: 1271 kb
Size Fb2: 1973 kb
Rating: 4.3/5
Votes: 751
Pages: 202 pages

The Tinderbox by Jo Bannister

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The haunting new novel from an acclaimed crime writer - Laurence Schofield's world was torn apart when his teenage daughter vanished. No trace was ever found. But six years later, a TV crew filming in London records a few seconds' footage of a girl who just could be her. Schofield heads for the capital. But this isn't the London of the tourist brochures: it's the Tinderbox, an area of dangerous dereliction where the homeless have created an alternative society with its own rules . . .


This is a very good, well-written "mystery" about a teen who disappeared when she was 15 years old -- but is seen in a video six years later. Her father then sets out in search of his daughter, and this search takes him into the Tinderbox area of London, where intense poverty and violence rule lives. The story is compelling and realistic. The reason I give it four stars rather than five is that the ending kind of tails off: it doesn't feel conclusive or definitive.

I have only one complaint about this novel. Once I started it I could not put it down until I had finished it. And the ending did fit in. Not your Hollywood ending where everything is so neatly wrapped up but a human ending. The best kind. I think if the author ever writes a novel about this family again, it will fill in the questions I have but maybe not. Real life is not about tidy endings. Lots of questions are never answered in this life.
The Tinderbox is about a section of London the normal citizen knows nothing about. It is beneath the elevated thruways shuttling people to their jobs from the cozy suburbs. It is lawless and the police avoid it unless forced to enter. This is a story about a runaway girl of fifteen and how she is found by her father when she is twenty-one. She becomes a member of this society and I will leave the rest of this story for the reader to find out. The story is intricate, compelling and very well told. Not a formula story written by a pretty author minus a brain, but a thoughtful very interesting one. It makes you think.

This is very likely Jo Bannister's best novel thus far. I was first captivated by her compelling Castlemere mysteries, and hugely disappointed when she metaphorically moved away from Castlemere. Still, I enjoy her writing and characterization, as well as the often gritty nature of her stories. I moved back and forth among her other somewhat tentative, searching series (Clio Rees/Harry Marsh, Primrose Holland, Mickey Flynn) and finally sort-of settled on Brodie Farrell for my periodic Jo Bannister fixes. Brodie is at least fairly steady as a series, but it is Bannister's non-series books, and especially The Tinderbox, that really ring the bell of excellence.

This is a story of a family torn by the horrifying disappearance of a child. Fifteen years old when she vanishes from her life in Birmingham , Cassie's disappearance disrupts the precarious stability of the family and leaves each member affected in completely believable ways. When brother Tom is certain six years later that Cassie is seen in a documentary of homelessness in London, Cassie's father abruptly leaves home to seek her out in London's ugliest underworld landscape.

Bannister draws a vivid and compelling story of his search and the dangers he encounters, almost getting himself killed but for the intervention of a young denizen of that underworld who reluctantly befriends him and aids his search. The story winds its way to a totally unpredictable conclusion. If you seek a formula ending, I hope you will be converted by the thoroughly believable wrap that Bannister puts on this captivating tale. This story is up to date with conditions in the world and the characters are felt as deeply as those who suffer many of today's miseries in real life.

I agree with other 5-star reviewers on Bannister's riveting suspense, her vivid characterization (including the sympathetic delineation of a protagonist as "about as exciting as a wet weekend in Whitby" [the quotation may not be verbatim since I don't presently have access to the book]), and her unsparing, yet fascinating creation of a world alien to most of us--all this and more makes for an absolutely compelling, highly rewarding read that I hated to see come to an end.

Why then did I stop short of awarding the book a full five stars? Because, although Ms. Bannister does an excellent job of showing us why Cassie *stayed* in the Tinderbox, in my opinion she does not--unless I missed something--do nearly as good a job of telling us why she left home in the first place. In other words, the leading female character is missing about half of her motivation.

Nevertheless, I still found the book well worth reading--the very fact that I finished it with a feeling of elation and satisfaction, and only sometime afterward did I reluctantly say, "Yes, but..." leads me to award it four stars. I would even go so far as to say that this perceived lack in characterization is just that: perceived.

The Tinderbox is so excellent in so many other ways that I urge others to read it and decide for themselves whether this question--WHY did Cassie Schofield leave her comfortable, loving home in Birmingham, England for a life in the underworld of London?--is sufficiently answered or not. For me, whatever answer Bannister provides compels me to call it less than perfect...yet still well worth the time of those in search of taut suspense, sharp characterization, and a non-Hollywood, yet oddly satisfying ending.