84K by Claire North (Orbit)

Claire North write some of the most interesting novels around.

She consistently comes up with ingenious ideas for her stories. The first I read was The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, about a man who keeps being reborn with all the knowledge of his previous lives.

Later I read The Sudden Appearance of Hope, about a girl who, in her mid teens, finds that everyone - including her own family - forget who she is every time she passes out of their sight.

Her latest book - 84K - is set in a future England where 'the Company' own everything, including the government's tax service. It is a world of 'haves' and 'have-not's and in which rich people who commit crimes can avoid the usual type of sentences you might expect by paying a fee based on the value of the harm done to someone - or even the perceived value of the victim's life.

Theo Miller works at the Criminal Audit Office, where he assesses the worth of victims based on their perceived value to society.

But he also has a deep secret - he is not who he says he is and is working under the identity of a friend who died in a bizarre duelling incident many years before.

When a former lover is murdered, Theo is given the case to audit the price of her life - but soon learns the woman had a daughter who may be his own flesh and blood.

As Theo investigates further he finds corruption at the heart of both Government and the Company - and soon his own life is put under threat.

Although the book is rather grim for the most part and few of the characters are truly likeable, the premise and plot are fascinating and you suspend your disbelief and get drawn into the world North creates.

You also start rooting for Theo and his allies - although occasionally despair things will ever get resolved satisfactorily.

Another interesting novel from an author whose imagination seems to know no bounds.