This is an unusual little book, something of a courtroom drama crossed with a police procedural, with a slathering of thriller on top. The style is different, too. The main character, Meg, keeps a diary for some of the events, so there are sections written in first person. The bulk of the book, however, is in a very wide-angle third person point of view, leaping merrily from one character to another, sometimes only for a sentence or two. This does mean that absolutely no detail is left out of the story. The downside is that, although the changes are never confusing in themselves, it did leave open to question the matter of which characters were the most important. There were so many named police with active roles that I never did work out if any of them were meant to be main characters. It's so common these days to focus closely on just one, or perhaps two, main police characters that I found this broad-brush approach disconcerting.
The opening of the story is
far more traditional, bordering on cliche. Middle-aged housewife Meg is
caught by the police, gun in hand and with another in her pocket, with
three seriously injured men. Despite her protestations that she came
across two of the men beating up the third and was forced to defend
herself, she is arrested. The story then follows all the twists and
turns of the police investigation in great detail, the trail of
evidence, the interviews, the reveals about Meg, the slow evolution of
the theories and, in time, the court appearances.
In all of this,
Meg is the most strongly drawn character by far. Partly this is because
of those first person diary entries which help the reader identify with
her, but the author also succeeds in capturing the wild mood swings Meg
experiences. She veers from tearful self-pity, to violent anger, to
depression and apathy in moments. I suppose only someone who's truly
experienced something similar can say for sure, but I found this very
The police, sadly, never quite come across as real
individuals. This is probably because there were so many of them that I
found it impossible to keep track of them all. They all blurred together
in my mind. Towards the end, I did begin to disentangle one or two of
them, but it was a little late by then. While I enjoyed the realism of
the police investigation, it might have been better to sacrifice a
little of that by merging some of the multitude of characters.
don't usually comment on typos and the like, because I find that
virtually all books have a sprinkling of them. Generally, it's only
continuity errors and plot holes that really bother me, and that wasn't
an issue here. However, there were innumerable small but annoying typos,
like words missing or misplaced, that became quite irritating. However,
I've had the book on my Kindle for a while, so it's possible it's been
tidied up by now.
Where the book truly scores is in the tension.
Even though the writing style is more dry reporting than melodrama, even
though every little detail was included, I found the story totally
compelling, and just couldn't put it down. It surprises me to write
this, but the courtroom scenes were so tense I found it hard to remember
to breathe, sometimes.
The ending was slightly jarring, and
there were too many pages of explanation for my taste. However, there
were some very interesting philosophical points raised. To the reader,
rooting for the innocent Meg caught up quite by chance in extreme
events, the black and white aspects of the case are completely clear.
For the police, viewing the evidence dispassionately, and for the
lawyers, judges and juries involved in the formalities of the law and
seeing only a small part of that evidence, there are many shades of
grey. An unusual tale, whose quirks never spoiled my enjoyment. If I had
half stars available, this would be three and a half stars, but since I
don’t let’s put it down as a very good three stars.