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Power Shift    by Judith Cutler order for
Power Shift
by Judith Cutler
Order:  USA  Can
McArthur, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

What would Inspector Jane Tennison, played by Helen Mirren in the wonderful British TV series Prime Suspect, be like if she were thirty-something years old instead of in her mid-fifties? Possibly she would be like Kate Powers in this enjoyable series written by British author Judith Cutler. While Tennison had to fight the pioneering battles that women do when they enter a formerly male-dominated profession, life is a bit easier for Inspector Powers. There are other women in supervisory police roles, although the force is still predominantly a male bastion.

Powers' main battles are against the assumption that she slept her way to her current position. Unfortunately, she is romantically involved with a CID superintendent which leads to gossip. However, she is on an accelerated-promotion scheme and has clearly proven herself in the past as we can read in Cutler's five earlier Kate Powers mysteries. Eponymously named, the titles set the tone for these books since they all include the word Power (Power Games, Hidden Power etc.). In Power Shift, Kate has just been assigned to run a police unit in Birmingham. It is located in the middle of the commercial area, surrounded by Chinatown. Kate is working hard to establish herself and earn the respect of her people, when she gets embroiled in a mystery involving an Albanian teenage girl, Natasha, who claims she was brought to Birmingham as part of the illegal prostitution trade. Soon the good Samaritan, who gave Natasha a ride from London when she was in flight from her captors, is found murdered. When one of Kate's officers disappears, this also may be also be linked to Natasha's situation.

The Kate Powers books nicely fill a niche in the world of British crime novels. We have many mysteries with village inspectors (e.g. Dorothy Simpson), male police officers (Peter Robinson and P.D. James) and female private detectives (Michelle Spring). But there aren't many young policewomen as lone protagonists. The Powers mysteries - with their well-done plots and realistic portrayal of a woman trying to have both a personal and a professional life - are a welcome addition to the genre.

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