Having stepped away from the Lacey Flint series for her past two novels, Sharon Bolton continues to show that she is not defined by a single character. Her unrepentant style of writing has long since made me a fan and will keep me reading for years to come. While it does not reach the heights of her last novel, which was her best work in my opinion, it is a worthy follow up.
Hamish Wolfe is a serial killer convicted of the murder of three woman and suspected in the death of a fourth. Maggie Rose is successful true crime author and notorious Defence attorney. Through traditional narration, excerpts from Maggie’s writing and evidence from police files, we follow the story of Hamish’s quest to appeal his conviction, his attempts to have Maggie take on his case and the demons that haunt their respective pasts. Is Hamish a notorious murderer or is he a charming man serving time for someone else’s crime.
Part of Bolton’s unrepentant style, is her willingness to embrace the absurd. In almost every review, I point out elements that I feel are simply ridiculous or unrealistic, but in nearly every case, I come to embrace these elements. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and Sharon Bolton suggests that fiction can be equally strange. Surprisingly, this novel contains less of the absurd than previous novels. From the first pages, you have the sense that not everything is as it seems. I found that I was simply unable to accept anything I was reading as I was suspicious of most every character. The story suggests that you are in for a final twist, keeps you looking left and right and does not disappoint in the end.
As I am a practicing lawyer in a country based on English Common Law, at times I felt elements of the police investigation seemed unlikely and the handling and characterization of evidence was wrong. Chances are that you won’t care or won’t know the difference. There is also an equal chance that I am wrong as the veracity of much of the narration was constantly in question. This leads me to major issue with format. I partook of this story in the audiobook format. As the narration included excerpts from written texts, I believe elements of the story would be better understood if read. While the narration was good, I believe the story would be best in the written format.
Sharon Bolton is never afraid to tackle social issues in her writing. This time around, issue of female body image and the societal view of fat women is explored. In all honesty, I was unsure of what the take away on the issue was meant to be. In some ways the final outcome will not place the story in the good graces of Feminist Weekly but at the same time, tells some hard truths concerning the psychological effects of body image.
Overall, another excellent addition to the Sharon Bolton canon. There are great characters, a interesting mystery, a multilayered plot and a twisty ending. Plenty of material for a mystery fan to enjoy.