Book Review: His & Hers

I don’t read many detective thrillers, despite it being such a popular genre, and unfortunately this book confirmed that they are still not for me. That being said, it was excellent. The twist were so sharp, the tension so oppressive, my heart could barely take it. Playing into the space of an unreliable narrator is very interesting, but I think it would have had more effect on me if I’d read more of the genre previously.

There’s been a murder in a sleepy town, which draws journalist Anna back home, where she reunites with detective Jack. Both have a history with the victim, with each other and with the town. Both are untrustworthy. Will the killer be caught in time to prevent more tragedy?

The first thing that struck me was just how incredible the writing was. There is a perfect balance of tension, exposition and internal monologue. I was particularly impressed with how Alice Feeney made the character’s inner thoughts fascinating at all times, conveying how different their own perception of themselves was from how others perceived them. As I’ve already mentioned, the tension was masterful, above and beyond what I’m used to. Thrillers need tension, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone use it as skillfully as Feeney. Furthermore, the exposition always felt relevant, never intrusive, continuously adding to the book.

The book has two different first person perspectives, from Anna and Jack. Both are complex characters, with complex needs, problems and secrets. The unreliability of their narration made them come alive most in my opinion. Because they would contract each other, it added another layer to their already deep characters. while I might not have been able to empathize with their specific circumstances, I definitely felt sympathetic towards them. The only problem I had was that I didn’t feel that there ‘voices’ were different enough in the first person perspective, which allows form an extreme intimacy with one character (or two in this case). I felt that that contrast could have been pulled out even more than it was.

However, there is a third, lesser, perspective from the killer. They only get a few pages sporadically throughout the book, but it allows for a truly chilling narration. They seem sociopathic at the very least, which constantly made me feel that one of the characters was hiding a deranged streak. I think it worked exceptionally well, while rarely ever providing any clues to the killer.

The supporting characters, who acted as other suspects, were also well thought-out. New information about them was drip-fed to the reader which constantly had you reevaluating them, yet they never seemed to break the mold of how I first imagined them. Again, the skill is unbelievable.

Yet where the skill shows most is the plot. After I’d already been baited into wrong conclusions twice in the first 50 or so pages, I knew I was being toyed with. Never have I felt so inadequate. I loved it and hated it at the same time. I got all my deductions (apart from one or two small ones) completely wrong. I definitely got the murder completely wrong. Yet it seemed so obvious once they were unmasked.

I was surprised by the nature of the themes. I thought they’d all be very shallow, but there was some significant thoughts about the human condition. It was quite cynical really, but still interesting. I feel like there was also things in there about family and loss, although they didn’t strike a chord with me due to my own life (or lack thereof) experience.

Overall, I’d give it 6.5 out of 7. It might not have been for me, but I can appreciate good writing. I would classify it as a detective thriller more than a murder mystery due to how the story unfolds and how possible it is to solve the murder, so if that’s your thing, I’d highly recommend. It has some very novel elements to make it stand out, as well as more traditional elements. Honestly, I think the writing was good enough that anyone will appreciate the book. Although prepare to be completely baffled and bewildered.

#RRABC Book Review: Jonah

I don’t typically enjoy war stories, specifically those set during World War 2. However, Jonah being set at sea made it stand apart from other books I’ve read from the same time period. Being on a ship inherently creates tension, since there is no escape, and Carl Rackman leans heavily into this. Moreover, this novel has very little combat (other than a battle scene at the very beginning), and is more a look at naval life, with a supernatural undertone.

The book focuses on the life of Mitch Kirkham aboard the US Navy destroyer Brownlee. After surviving a horrific battle, the novel explores Mitch’s naval experiences, and through his interactions, other experiences of different characters. It deals with PTSD and bullying, before switching direction with the introduction of ‘The Brownlee Beast’.

I thought that the character of Mitch was excellent, as Rackman made him feel relatable by having him grapple with moral quandaries. He means well, but doesn’t always make the best choices – similar to most real people. Furthermore, it is very easy to feel sympathy for him, as he often gets into bad situations through no fault of his own.

Many of the supporting characters were also good, with my favourite being Doc. While not actually a doctor, he had rudimental medical training as the pharmacologist onboard. I felt drawn to his strong moral compass and his relentless work ethic. While many of the other characters were strong, I would have liked more development of the captain since he appears in quite a few scenes without us really understanding his motivations.

The author’s deep naval knowledge was obvious, but technical vocabulary never impeded my reading. He created a glossary at the end of the book, but I never felt the need to use this, since he did such a good job of making the meaning of new words obvious by the surrounding paragraph. It felt very well blended.

I don’t want to talk about the themes for too long, as I can’t mention some of the most interesting ones in case I spoil anything. However, I found the examination of chain of command very interesting, as well as the somewhat toxic culture that was found aboard the ship. That being said, the main aim of this book seems to me to be to entertain, which it does very well.

The mysterious element of the book is handled very well, and it kept me guessing until the final reveal. The action is also paced very well, with the tension staying with me long after I’d put the book down for the night.

However, I found the ending to be unsatisfying. The pacing was again good, and it felt like a proper climax, but the resolution just felt too perfect. There were also flashbacks interspersed throughout the book that, while I didn’t dislike them, and thought they were very well written, didn’t seem to add anything to the plot as a whole.

Overall, this book was a 5.5 out of 7 for me. It was easy to get into and this ease of reading continued throughout. The few small things I wasn’t a personal fan of are easily outweighed by the well-crafted plot and relatable characters. I would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers, especially historical ones, as well as fans of psychological horror (since it shares some similar elements, while not strictly falling into that genre).