A deadly virus rages through the streets of Edinburgh With only twenty percent of the population immune, all large gatherings are banned and people are running scared.The Heath Enforcement Team a mix of seconded police officers and health promotion professionals is tasked with tracking down people who fail to attend their compulsory health checks A routine hunt for a defaulter becomes entwined with the confidential case of the missing daughter of a German politician.Lesley Kelly has created a fresh and unusual spin on the detective novel, with a delightfully dysfunctional team of health checking sleuths A clever mix of mystery, authenticity and humour I ve already downloaded the next in the series. I am always intrigued by books set in my home city of Edinburgh, and even so by the altered world that The Health Of Strangers is set It s a post viral Edinburgh and now The Health Enforcement Team, have to keep on their toes to keep it safe It may sound a little far fetched, but you would be wrong I could totally relate to the situation with all bugs and virus s that have plagued the world over recent years, something could happen anywhere So getting myself into the mindset of what had happened was easy.The book is well paced and you learn new things with each chapter Get to know Mona and Bernard as they work had to keep the City safe Go with them on a dark and mysteries journey as they try to find the two missing studentsI recommend the book, it s different in a great way, Lesley Kelly has a knack of leaving you wanting Which is great as the next book in series is Songs By Dead Girls and it will be coming in 2018 Nobody Likes The North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, Least Of All The People Who Work For It An Uneasy Mix Of Seconded Police And Health Service Staff, Mona, Bernard And Their Colleagues Stem The Spread Of The Virus, A Mutant Strain Of Influenza, By Tracking Down People Who Have Missed Their Monthly Health Check Now Two Young Female Students Are Missing, Raising Question After Question For The HET Why Were They Drinking In A Biker S Bar Who Are The Mysterious Children Of Camus Cult And Why Is The German Government Interfering In The Investigation Mona And Bernard Need To Fight Their Way Through Lies And Intrigue, And Find The Missing Girls Before Anyone Else Does Follow up to the gem that was A Fine House In Trinity, and the beginning of a new series that s set in what is, to all intents and purposes, modern day Edinburgh except there s a worldwide flu pandemic which has been killing off large numbers of the population The rush is obviously on to find the obviously highly financially lucrative vaccine or cure, but in the meantime the Health Enforcement Department a combination of cops and health workers a team that creates it s own unique set of problems must track down anyone who misses their monthly Health Check, which ensures their Virus free The majority of the time this involves tracking down those with chaotic lifestyles and the occasional person whose missed their appointment because, well, they re dead However, when two teenagers die, with a third clinging to life, due to an overdose of a mixture of pharmaceutical drugs that conspiracy theorists claim can stop the Virus, their job suddenly becomes a bit interesting They also have a German doctor, close to a politician whose daughter has missed her health check, breathing down their neck and insisting they locate her When another student goes missing, the team realise they ve got a lot than they bargained for this time around There s a great team ex CID, Mona Whyte Bernard, who s only ever worked I m health promotion and has personal knowledge of losing someone close to you to the Virus Maitland a keen but green cop who s smart but sometimes overconfident and Carole, an ex nurse Then there s the Guv, Paterson As expected with a Lesley Kelly novel, there s plenty of wit and banter, with the hapless Bernard the main victim And in case you re wondering why such a disparate and mismatched group make up the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, well, that s simply because they ve all had the Virus, but were lucky enough to survive, and so make perfect candidates for working on the front line I m generally not huge on novels involving pandemics, although I have read some good ones Louise Welsh s recent series springs to mind This, however, is, at it s heart a crime novel, and the pandemic aspect just gives Kelly an opportunity to be as highly original as ever Personally, I can t wait for no.2 in the series, Songs By Dead Girls The only scunner is waiting until next year for it Don t miss it Full review to appear on Meet the North Edinburgh HET.The HET Well that would be the Health Enforcement Team, an agency set up in the aftermath of a viral outbreak which has caused the loss of millions of lives around the world More on that in a second The Health Enforcement Team are our focus in The Health of Strangers and they are an endearing dysfunctional lot Mona was a cop who was offered the opportunity to move to HET to make a name for herself but was she perhaps shunted off to keep her out the road Her colleagues Bernard and Maitland also have secrets in their background or their home life so collectively they may not come across as a well oiled unit The conflicts and insecurities in the team does give Lesley Kelly plenty of opportunity to get some great dialogue going between her characters love a bit of bickering between colleagues to lighten the mood So the virus a flu strain which mutated The first wave contaminated many of the population but lots of people recovered albeit after much discomfort But the virus mutated and the next wave claimed many lives those that had contracted flu in the first viral wave developed an immunity but it also meant they saw friends and loved ones die when the virus returned in its mutated form.Society changed, some people turned to religion new Chapters within the churches were formed , pregnancy increased the risk of dying from the virus, different countries adapted better to controlling and containing the spread of the disease But everyone is now required to attend regular health screenings to ensure they are not unknowingly carrying the virus miss a screening and you are reported to the HET who are expected to find you and take appropriate action to minimize any potential contamination risks.I really enjoyed The Health of Strangers The dystopian setting is nicely balanced not too bleak but Edinburgh is clearly a changed city There has been an horrific event but life still continues but it continues differently for the survivors People are adaptable and the human resilience shines through but they will be suffering and their grief will channel rage and distrust characterization will make or break a story like this and Lesley Kelly has absolutely nailed it.I realise that I haven t even mentioned the missing girls the ones that have missed their Health Check, the girls that the HET are tasked with finding The missing girls will the team busy and frustrated and this is the crime story at the core of the book, the investigation is well constructed and there are all the distractions and unreliable witnesses to challenge the team.So The Health of Strangers is a crime thriller in a dystopian and ravaged Edinburgh with a great cast and the pages which virtually turned themselves I bloody loved it. An interesting start to a new series set slightly in the future where a worldwide flu like virus has proved to be fatal for a large minority The Health Enforcement Team are not popular but they are the front line in battling this illness Throw in missing students who have missed their enforced medical check ups, a religious cult and drugs bought online you have a take that keeps you guessing.Ray Smillie In a recent interview with The Crime Warp here , Lesley Kelly described her work in progress like this Taste the bitter tang of the illegal drugs you purchased over the Internet in the hope that they will protect you from the Virus By the way, they don t work and you just gave your credit card details to some very unsavoury people See the adverts on the TV round the clock about the Health Enforcement Team who will be knocking on your door if you miss your fortnightly Health Check Touch your hand against your daughter s face, and pray she never catches the Virus You know that teenagers are most at risk their healthy immune system will work so hard to fight the Virus it will kill them Smell the incense from that church on your daughter s clothes You know it s a cult but she s desperate for hope Hear the door slam as she storms out But don t worry when she doesn t come home, the Health Enforcement Team will help you look for her Or her body So really, is it any surprise that when I got the chance to be on her Blog tour and review her new book The Health of Strangers, that I jumped at it To be honest I was gripped before I even started Who wouldn t be after that juicy description earlier And believe me The Health Of Strangers lives up to my extremely high expectations of it Set in a post viral Edinburgh, the Health Enforcement Team headed up by Mona and Bernard, stem the spread of the virus by enforcing monthly health checks and following up on those who miss them When two students disappear Mona and Bernard are thrust into a world of cults, raves and overseas governments So, why am I recommending The Health of Strangers to you Easy The characters are brilliant Their dialogue is spot on and the relationship between Bernard and Mona is great Sometimes when an author comes up with such a novel plot, they fail in the execution of it not Kelly though She delivers this brilliantly A truly fantastic read Couldn t put it downEdinburgh is built on three levels, there s the upper where the sun reaches the streets and tourists wander in the summer admiring the architecture, enjoying the Festival There s a lower, always in shadow, a smell of damp stone, narrow cobbled winds and the constant noise of burgundy and cream busses rumbling overhead Then there s beneath.Lesley s book is like the city it is set in with layered interconnecting plot lines and characters that are complex than first thought, with the exception of Maitland possibly But we all know a Maitland.Paterson is maybe a little too like an 80 s action movie police chief at times but I look forward to book 2 and hopefully some space to see him fully developed as a character.All in all a fantastic read set in a city I love. For a change, I decided to read a crime novel because it s set in Edinburgh and there s a pandemic I got through The Health of Strangers in about three hours last night, as it s a fast paced read set over five days In this alternate universe, a flu pandemic has killed a million people across Britain There s no vaccine, so health checks have become mandatory and anyone who dares skip one is tracked down by Health Enforcement Teams Our point of view characters form one such team, ostensibly covering North Edinburgh The five of them are a somewhat motely crew that reminded me of the TV series Whitechapel Police have been partnered with health workers and no one likes the job much Nonetheless, they go out and search the mean streets for people who ve foolishly missed their health check This time, the missing person is a pretty young woman of course with a powerful father and some dodgy friends I didn t find the plot hugely surprising, but it kept my interest The health enforcers are rather fun three feel like stock characters angry boss, caring mum, sexist pig while the two main protagonists are interesting view spoiler a clean living and nervous guy partnered with a butch lesbian called it, incidentally hide spoiler In The Health of Strangers Lesley Kelly returns once to the darker side of Edinburgh This is an Edinburgh living in fear following The Virus pandemic The Virus is a mutant strain of the flu which has claimed the lives of over a million people in the UK alone The Health Enforcement Team has responsibility for following up on anyone who has missed their monthly health checks They are not popular, especially amongst those who think The Virus is some sort of government run conspiracy.Now normally I wouldn t say I enjoy dystopian novels but this must be just a little bit dystopian because I certainly did enjoy it I think that part of the reason is that I could envisage this kind of scenario happening We have all heard about the Ebola virus which killed so many in Africa, have been warned about the possible dangers of bird flu and recently read about the Zika virus in South America Doctors warn us that antibiotics are losing their effectiveness and that a pandemic of this nature is likely So it was intriguing to read about this imagined world, where people try to virus proof their homes, everyone has to carry their health card and everyone knows someone who has died As I would imagine would happen, conspiracy theories begin to arise, people start to look for alternative therapies and grasp at possible cures no matter how bizarre they may seem It all seemed scarily plausible.I also enjoyed getting to know the Health Enforcement Team as they carried out their thankless tasks, trying to track down two young students who had gone missing Along the way they discover cults, infiltrate secret gatherings, uncover German government interference and investigate possible drug dealing Bernard, Mona and Maitland all had their own reasons for working in the HET and all had secrets in their home life they d rather not bring to the office This unlikely group of colleagues were all intriguing in their interactions with each other I was pleased to see from a sneak peek at the back of the book from Lesley Kelly s next novel, Songs by Dead Girls, that we will get to meet them again and I m looking forward to getting to know them better.The Health of Strangers is another great read from Lesley Kelly It s well paced with strong storylines, a frighteningly plausible plot and entertaining banter between its main characters throughout.
Lesley has worked in the public and voluntary sector for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand up comedy along the way She has won a number of writing competitions, including the Scotsman s Short Story award in 2008 A Fine House in Trinity was long listed for the McIlvanney Award for the best Scottish crime novel in 2016.Her next novel, The Health of Strangers will be published
- 320 pages
- The Health of Strangers (Health of Strangers, #1)
- Lesley Kelly
- 18 January 2019 Lesley Kelly