This book is messy. Not messy as in badly put together, but messy in that it mirrors real life: The situations are messy; the characters are messy; their intentions are messy; and their actions are often really, really messy.
Roxane Weary is a Private Investigator who is somewhere on the spectrum between 1940s Bogart characters and Netflix’s Jessica Jones, although without the mumbling of the former and the superpowers of the latter. Her head seems to hurt with just the effort of living at times.
Her family is also messy; her relationships unsurprisingly messy. In fact, the only things about her that are clear is that she’s smart and has a burning sense of justice.
A parade of characters moves through the book and you get to hold each one up and wonder who they are and what, if anything, did they do?
The book starts with a simple assignment to follow a potentially cheating fiancée, who may or may not have cleaned out her future husband’s bank accounts. Just after the cheque bounces and the tailing stops, the errant fiancée is murdered.
It sounds like a simple whodunit, but the lies and mysteries pile up and it becomes quite hard to put the book down.
The book races towards an inevitable all-action conclusion although after that, the last couple of chapters tidy some loose ends and set up the next book perhaps, as the sting has gone out of the story by then. If you are expecting a neatly tidied-up end to the book, well, some of that’s messy as well.
One point to note is that this is the second book in a series. It’s hard for an author to tread the fine line between people who have read the first book and people who haven’t, but Lapoinka navigates this quite successfully, neither ruining the first book for you should you choose to read it, nor leaving you wondering about background.
PI books have a great danger of cliché about them, and this one embraces that when it has to, but finds it own path as well.
Despite not having read it, I’d recommend the first book (The Last Place You Look) first and then this one. When the inevitable third book comes out, I’m looking forward to revisiting Roxy to see if she’s straightened out the mess.
Reviewed by Robert Godden
Rating out of 10: 7
Distributed by: Allen & Unwin
Released: May 2018