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BOOK REVIEWS: CONFRONTATION; MURPHY'S REVENGE by COLIN BATEMAN (Headline pounds 17.99).

Byline: HENRY SUTTON

This is the second novel Colin Bateman has written about the dysfunctional, London-based, Northern Irish cop, Martin Murphy. Murphy's grown a little fatter, a little balder, possibly a touch more cynical too, but his sense of humour is as awful as ever.

It's also hard not to think of James Nesbitt playing Murphy, while reading one of these novels. The actor has become synonymous with the character in BBC1's Murphy's Law series.

Nesbitt is not quite as bald nor fat as Bateman's descriptions, but I can't imagine the writer had anyone else in mind when he was sitting at his laptop. Besides, Bateman - who's written a number of other screenplays, including Divorcing Jack and Wild About Harry - and Nesbitt are best buddies.

Murphy, on the other hand, doesn't have any mates, unless you count Father McBride, his old chum from school who is a priest with a truly wicked tongue.

As a loner without the emotional ties and constraints of a family, Murphy finds he can operate more effectively as a cop, especially when going undercover. This time he aims to infiltrate Confront, a support group for relatives of murder victims.

Supposedly they limit their action to the surveillance of murderers who have either got away with their crimes, or been treated too leniently by the law. However, Murphy and his Special Branch colleagues suspect the group of a number of revenge killings. As cover, Murphy doesn't try to hide the fact he's a cop, he just tells Confront, and its creepy head, Dr Jeffers, that he's been sacked from the force following a botched arrest of a rapist and murderer who's currently walking the streets.

When the Special Branch detective posing as the rapist and murderer is suddenly shot at, Murphy knows there's more to Confront than a bunch of pumped up Neighbourhood Watch fanatics.

His immediate suspicions centre on pretty Andrea, whose father was murdered by carjackers, and Andrea's thickset, greyhound-loving bloke Lawrence. Then, at a Confront therapy session, Dr Jeffers reveals he knows a little more about Murphy than the cop has previously let on - principally, that Murphy's son was not only murdered by the IRA a few years back, but that the man responsible for slitting the young boy's throat is now living in London.

Murphy realises that his wish to inflitrate Confront was not only professional, but also personal. A trip back to Northern Ireland to get a few answers from his old boss also makes Murphy confront his innermost demons. Returning to London he begins to realise that the law is not always the best vehicle for revenge.

This is Bateman on top form once again.

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COP THIS: James Nesbitt in Murphy's Law
COPYRIGHT 2005 MGN LTD
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 15, 2005
Words:454
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