This is a challenging book. In a good way. I have read books before (such as “Deadly Waters” by Dot Hutchison) where the descriptions and topic just seemed to go to far as I nearly stopped reading (though was pleased that I didn’t). This book wasn’t a challenge in that way. Yes, the topics were hard to read about, but I thought they were generally handled well and it really helped you to understand the protagonist.
The topics that the book deals with include rape, mass executions, and false imprisonment. The author was so concerned about how the content could impact readers that a list of help/support lines are provided at the start of the book. This is a nice sentiment – but as all the listings were American with US telephone numbers, it’s a useless inclusion for many readers. Website links and a more international listing would have been better.
There are a few other errors here and there (e.g., swimming pools do not smell of chlorine – the smell is chloramines, essentially the result of the reaction of chlorine reacting with what else is in the water (primarily swimmer’s sweat and urine)), but the book contains such strong “pillars of truth” (i.e., true elements) that the errors are only a minor distraction (as was using the acronym “RICO” which isn’t used in the UK… it stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations).
But let’s not beat about the bush – this book is incredibly graphic in places. If you are not into such books, then this book isn’t for you. However, just as Barry Eisler, for example, does, I found that the scenes were handled well and probably necessary – although (as with Eisler books) I sometimes found it hard to keep up with what was going on in some of the fight scenes.
The book – like a few I have read recently (and which has helped me inspire me how to handle my fourth novel) – largely works around two main timelines – “Before” and “After”. Even the viewpoints are changed between first and third person to help with the distinctions, which I thought was a clever twist and one that I may consider adopting. Although the book is largely written in relation to the protagonist – in many respects I don’t think the protagonist is my favourite character; that was Georgia, a teenage girl that the protagonist gets to know in the “After” parts.
One bit of the text that jumped out for me was the following:
“Look, Dad, Jaws. Just in time.”
“Peach, maybe Jaws isn’t Nena’s type of movie.”
“I love Jaws,” Nena said between mouthfuls. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Reading this book shortly after re-watching Jaws and going to see the play “The Shark is Broken“, it made me smile to come across this bit of text. I have also included a mention of Jaws in my novel Tokyo 20/20 Vision as it’s also my favourite movie. Despite this, I didn’t completely warm to Nena and I’m still not sure whether I will want to read the next in the series – I wonder what it will be like without the other timeline providing the basis for understanding the character. But, then again, this book was so well written, I’m sure the author has something good planned so I will probably read the next one too.
The one thing that left me a little perplexed and disappointed was the final chapter. Not so much for its contents but for how/where it was set. Having had all of the “Before” and “After” chapters, I had expected the final chapter to make it much more obvious what the dividing point was between the two timelines. It doesn’t do this (I won’t say what it does do so not to spoil anything for you) and I was left wondering when/what the key change between the two timelines was. I was aware of when all the chapters were set in the “After” – but, and this could just be me, I wasn’t left with a memory of it being clear what the break between the two timelines was and why. Perhaps this will be revisited in the second book.
Anyway, although I had slightly mixed feelings about the ending, “Her Name is Knight” is a great read and I would highly recommend it.