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Review: Hurting Too Much by Harry Keeble and Kris Hollington (2012, UK)

Hurting Too Much (HTM) is the third book by Harry Keeble and Kris Hollington following on from Baby X and Little Victim. In a slowed-down real-life version of the TV drama Southland, Detective Sergeant Keeble (shortened to DS in the UK) continues with an account of just a small selection of the child protection cases he encounters but at the same time, is shadowing a rookie social worker.

The book is boosted partly by the general rush to print, considering that HTM fits in social comment on England’s summer riots of last year despite only happening six months before publication. In the actual abuse cases it does well to cover maternal incest. However, the wide coverage of the Vanessa George case that happened within the date of at least two of Keeble’s books made me feel that encountering a female sex offender should have been less shocking that it was implied by either author. A teen sleeping with a teacher is also covered and the handling of that case is also surprisingly sensitive – but the coverage of the debate about reversal of genders and informing attitudes is long overdue and another big plus to the book. The same goes for culturally-based honour killings and/or forced marriages, abuse by grandparents or internet predators. To his credit, Keeble is unafraid to highlight where the cops have got it wrong and the consequences, a trait you’d be forgiven for thinking was seriously lacking among the top brass.

The BBC TV series Protecting Our Children has given the layman another view of social work in recent months. In HTM, the reader gets to experience the “street induction” of the social worker working with DS Keeble. Their permanent state of overwork and the effect on life in general is laid bare.

There’s another international incident although this time, it happens by accident. It’s not a witness chase related to child protection as with earlier books. As such, it provides the sole light relief in HTM as well as the positive outcomes to long-term cases that might have otherwise stayed cold.

So HTM is a better book than Little Victim, sticking to the same format as the second child protection book but expanding on other general social themes. It’s all the more annoying then, that the publishers dumped the pastel/sketched child model of Baby X and chose another cute and glossy cover picture aimed at the Judy Piccoult fan market, the stories in this book stand up well enough without that BS marketing ploy by the publishers. The cove is the worst thing about the book, so try to ignore that and give Hurting Too Much a read, whether or not you’ve read the first two in the series.

Amazon Page: UK

– CBG

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