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I love exploring genres that are new to me, but I am wary of writing a review if I’m not the usual target audience because there might be things I don’t like, or miss, just because I’m not a habitual reader of that style. So, read my review with that in mind.
I’ve read a fair amount of Christopher Brookmyre, who is probably closest to this kind of book - Tartan Noir, Scottish thriller, that sort of thing, and I love Brookmyre’s pace and tone, but I could not say I have read many other thrillers.
I was attracted to this because it had a female protagonist and promised to be “Die Hard for Girls.” Die Hard for Women might have suited me more, perhaps.
It was very pacey and written in a bouncing, enthusiastic style that carried the reader along. Overall this was hugely effective and exactly what you want from a thriller.
However, there was no respite. In the other thrillers I’ve read (with the caveat it’s rather few) there were some chapters or scenes where the pace slowed, to allow the reader to assimilate the action and the information. Especially in a thriller-mystery (and I DO read a lot of mystery) you need the gaps, the breathing space. Because this book was relentless, with no passages of description or reflection, it carried me along too fast and I found that there were illogical or co-incidental leaps in the narrative. A little more attention to how the protagonist and her sidekick worked things out would have been helpful. They had ideas and went to check then out (I don’t want to give spoilers so can’t do detail) and the ideas were correct, and I wasn’t always convinced.
There was one factual inaccuracy that rubbed me up the wrong way - unless Scottish prisons are incredibly different to English ones - they go and interview a staff member who works in a prison. This simply wouldn’t happen. You need to obtain a gate pass from Security who clear you for a specific purpose in a specific department; the staff member would, in this case, have been told to meet the protags in a café outside. They wouldn’t be in the prison for this frivolous purpose. I suppose it added colour to the book but due to my background I found it deeply irritating and better research was needed, all round. Yes, it’s a thriller and yes, it’s a work of imagination but it was trying to root itself in realistic urban Scotland so it needed to be a little more meticulous.
That said - and the irritation might not count for you, if you don’t mind that one little slip like this - it doesn’t get in the way of the story, so maybe it’s just me; I just wanted to give a little hint to the author to double-fact-check.
It was ballsy, breezy, and refreshing to read about a female character who can hold her own though sadly she still gets rescued by a man and the police who have a well-timed entrance at the end, which was a bit of a blow. More fulfilling, for me, is any thriller or story in general where the ending is the work of the hero/heroine’s own cunning, not the deus ex machina of the authorities coming in. Still, this is something the author will improve upon as they learn and study the mechanics of story writing.
The style itself is appealing and I enjoyed that aspect very much - the larger building blocks of the novel (structure in particular) can be improved upon and I am sure their next books will be better and better; they have the potential to do very well, I think, as this genre is popular and the characters were engaging, and the style light, and the book pacey enough to be read in a few sittings.