Spectrum of Scarlett Tanner is a female James Bond-esque, breakneck speed novel that manages to accomplish so much in a very short space of time. Elizabeth Calder not only fits a 30-day period on just 163 pages, she writes a detailed back story, a love story, a complex web of characters, and all without missing a beat.
We are introduced to the complex world of Scarlett Tanner, her dark affiliations with Spectrum and begin a globe-trotting adventure where she not only avoids death no less than twice, but brings her family back together from the brink of destruction as well.
Calder is a master of telling her story through the dialogue of the characters, without which the story would not have been as easy to follow. Given so much is fitted into so few pages, she does run the risk that some of the story is lost to progression – it is possible to lose track of people given how quickly they are introduced and then moved on – but the dialogue always manages to centre the story back on Tanner and how she faces the challenges put to her.
There is almost (yes, I say almost), too much action going on. However, Calder steadies this by focussing on character reflection and engaging in useful scene setting that helps bring her characters to life. We meet her husband (who is the Premier of South Australia), her home in the Adelaide Hills (we even have our Southern Freeway mentioned) as well as an array of foreign characters who could double-cross her at any moment. It makes for very intense reading. It’s almost a relief as the story concludes and the ending is laid out.
Whilst short novellas are not for everyone, if you’re looking for a quick read then pick this one up. You will not be disappointed with the constant action, threat of death and impressive diversion schemes. Tanner is a strong female lead breaking all the rules and doing so in style. For once, the boys are sitting at home with no clue what is going on behind them and I definitely look forward to picking up more of Calder’s work.
Reviewed by Zoe Butler
Rating out of 10: 7
Distributed by: Elephant House Press
Released: August 2018
Disclaimer: Elephant House Press was co-founded by Elizabeth Calder who is a contributor to Glam Adelaide.