Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them. Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers. Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.
I've been meaning to read Graham Smith for a while, having heard good things from a number of people on the British crime circuit. This novella may not have been the best introduction, as I think readers who know the recurring characters in the Major Crime Team more deeply from Smith's earlier books might get more from this, but I did quite enjoy the read overall as a standalone.
MATCHING THE EVIDENCE is a police procedural set against the backdrop of a football game where hooligans are expected to clash. The police are on high alert, an undercover cop has infiltrated one of the gangs, but there may be even more dangerous events on the horizon.
DI Harry Evans is a hard man who cares for his team of coppers, but doesn't give a damn about office politics or the higher ups. An attitude that gets him in trouble. He's approaching retirement, but is in hot water after the events in SNATCHED FROM HOME, Smith's previous tale (a novel-length one).
While I've seen a lot of praise elsewhere for the characters of Evans and his colleagues, I felt a little disconnected from them in this tale. It might have been the short length - meaning that the plot took over more than it otherwise would - or perhaps because I hadn't read the previous books. For whatever reason, while I enjoyed the read overall, and found it an interesting page-turner, I wasn't fully invested in the characters on a deeper level. Smith is a good writer though.
I enjoyed the way that football - which is a religion for some here in the United Kingdom - was entwined with the crime tale, and the insights Smith shared into the hooligan gangs who use the games and the rivalries as an excuse to get in large-scale fights. Us and them, divided by strip.
MATCHING THE EVIDENCE was a good, gritty read and a nice taster of Smith's writing.
Craig Sisterson is a lapsed lawyer who writes features for leading magazines and newspapers in several countries. He has interviewed more than 180 crime writers, discussed crime writing onstage at arts and literary festivals in Europe and Australasia, on national radio, has been a judge of the Ned Kelly Awards, and is the Judging Convenor of the Ngaio Marsh Awards. You can follow him on Twitter: @craigsisterson