A leitmotif of desperation runs at the heart of Bella Pollen's fourth novel, Midnight Cactus, which delves into the murky dealings at the Mexican border where America with all its potential for new beginnings - is but miles away.

Set in the Arizona desert, a barren, dry land dividing the haves and have nots, Midnight Cactus is full of people on the run, harbouring the dream of a better life.

Alice Coleman, escaping London and a loveless marriage, arrives in Temerosa with her two children and a plan to renovate the abandoned mining town.

From the moment she decides where to place her trust and loyalty, there is no turning back and she is dragged into a quest for revenge which will expose her to love, but also to violence, fear and death.

The mysterious prologue is finally weaved into the plot as Midnight Cactus works up to its climax, and there is no doubt that it captures the imagination at this point.

But too much time beforehand is spent with Alice vacillating from one misplaced venture to another.

What could have been a gritty, dramatic exploration of border politics is therefore somewhat diminished as a result.

It remains a perfectly acceptable novel and will make a great summer read but at the end of it, one cannot help feeling slightly short-changed because it could have been so much more.

Nicola Boden