adam jenkin

Copycat: All Day and A Night

Without really meaning to I challenged TBYL Reviewer Adam Jenkin to read a little bit differently this month. Although crime isn’t usually his genre of choice, it would seem that he got pretty sucked into his recent read, All Day and A Night by Alafair Burke (Allen and Unwin). Here’s what he made of this gritty mystery…

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Anthony Amaro is a convicted serial killer, behind bars serving life without parole. His signature move of breaking the arms and legs of his victims placed him beautifully for the murder of five women in the Utica area and one in nearby New York City itself. Five of the working girls were found in the same park. He even boasted about it to a cellmate. His guilt seemed unquestionable. Or so they all thought.

All day and a nightWhen Helen Brunswick, a New York psychologist, from Utica is murdered in her office 18 years later, using the same MO as Anthony Amaro, just as a letter turns up at the District Attorney’s office outlining elements of the Amaro case that remained hidden from the public and protesting Amaro’s innocence, suddenly two and two no longer add up to four.

Enter Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan, pulled in as a set of fresh eyes to look at a case that at every corner seems to point towards a copycat and a leak in the department; and Carrie Blank, a successful and very sought-after lawyer at a prestigious law firm, who just happens to be the sister of one of Amaro’s victims.

Carrie quits her prestigious post to join Amaro’s newly assembled defence team, telling herself her reasons are more noble than simple curiosity about what happened to the badly misled Donna Blank, victim number four. Carrie’s interest in the events in Utica are brought to a peak when the evidence surrounding Donna’s last movements don’t match up with her own memories.

Ellie and JJ roll in to Utica to tie up a few loose ends, and find more than they can tie up alone. Helen Brunswick’s earlier clientele from the old neighbourhood, the local senior police officer and his aspiring politician son and a more than enthusiastic defence lawyer seem to continually jump up in their path until what started out as a simple case of “one killer, six victims” is now nowhere near that simple.

Going through the saga behind the characters of Ellie and Carrie, the insights they both have of different sides of the case present two unique perspectives, each searching for their own truth. Even though their tales are told as opposing battles, the search for what really happened to all the victims is really attention grabbing, it had me hooked. My loyalties for characters and ideas of what occurred tended to sway from one to the other, so that I was kept in the story so thoroughly that even once I had worked out who did what, I was still hanging on every page to find out how, why, where and when.

The detective-trailing murder-mystery is not usually a genre I follow, as the plot lines either tend to be too vague, right up until the final few chapters or so see-through that what the writer thinks are plot twists you can see coming a mile away. All Day And A Night did neither of these things. Feel free to ignore the comment on the cover about the female characters’ private and public battle for acceptance, as I did. I noticed the tagline once I’d read about half the book and really couldn’t see how the story had very much to do with that. Ellie was a head-strong tomboy and Carrie the intelligent and still-grieving sister, but neither character’s storyline dragged anywhere near internal feminine battles with trauma. I was pretty satisfied though with its focus on the crime, the clues and the work being done by Ellie and Carrie.

In short, I loved it because it was neither a catch the real killer or a genius behind the scenes madman relative story, putting enough twists and turns into an old fashioned whodunit (or whodunwhat…) to keep you perched on both Ellie and Carries shoulders for the whole ride.

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You can find out more about All Day and A Night by Alafair Burke here…

 

 

Trouble: Zero to the Bone

TBYL Reviewer Adam had a pretty unusual reaction to this very time-stamped genre piece. Here’s what Adam made of David Whish-Wilson’s Zero at the Bone (Penguin).
 
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Perth. The year is 1979. You don’t get much for a dime these days but then what else is new? Then she walked into my life, blonde flowing hair, that mysterious, melt a man with a wink look and I knew I was in trouble. Bloody dames…
 
zero at the boneWell, the year was 1979 and the city was Perth, but the rest of it I’ll explain later…
 
Max Henderson is a Geologist with a wife, property and a future, so his suicide comes as a shock, to no one more than his wife, who doesn’t buy it. Jennifer Henderson is an intelligent woman grieving for her partner and hung up on that fateful question… Why?
 
Enter detective Frank Swann, hired by Mrs Henderson to investigate the reasons behind Max’s suicide. Swann’s first enquiries lead him to a recent report on a mining site in outback Western Australia that seems to throw up more questions than Frank can think to ask. The primary one being – how did Max find himself involved in the various members of Perth’s underworld, the purported owners of the drill site?
 
The further Swann is drawn in, the more trouble rears its head from all sides, none more than from the direction of his former colleagues, the extremely questionable vermin that currently inhabit the Perth Police Force.
 
The story comes to a fantastic conclusion when Frank realises that nothing was ever what it seemed and no matter how hard you try, you can’t fight money!
 
Let me say – at no point during the reading of this book, did it really grab me. Interestingly though upon review, I realised I actually loved it! The concept of corruption that goes undiscovered and undefeated, and criminals that are not just hiding but also running things, creates an exciting read. The story concluded in a very satisfactory manner, but just not an expected one.
 
The one thing that kept drawing me out of the story was the style in which it was written. It felt less like a novel and more like the script of a 1940’s Bogart detective movie. Every second paragraph left you expecting a reference to a Maltese Falcon or a dame that walked into his life. If that wasn’t distracting enough, there were times where I really felt like I was missing something. David Whish-Wilson obviously grew up in Perth in the 70’s, which served him well in writing something familiar to the era, but unless you grew up there too, there are many references which may sail right over your head.
 
Still, if you can get past the writing style and the constant 70’s pub slang, David Whish-Wilson can tell a story. One I can honestly say I really enjoyed… after a while.
 
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Find out more about Zero at the Bone by David Whish-Wilson on the Penguin website here…