Books & Literature

Book Review: White Noise, by Mercedes Mercier

THRILLER: A searing, dark and dangerous thriller from an exciting new voice.

A perfectly paced, intelligent, and gripping crime novel.

Dr Laura Fleming is a psychologist working in a men’s prison in Sydney. One of her roles is to provide reports to the Parole Board when a prisoner is being considered for early release. Her current such case, Justin Jones, is troubling her. Given a gold-star report by the previous psychologist, and having not one black mark against his name, he would seem to be the model prisoner. Yet Laura’s instincts tell her that this man is far more dangerous than he seems. Meanwhile, she is tackling her own demons: a horrific incident in her past left her with a painkiller addiction, a broken marriage, and an estranged teenage daughter with whom she is desperate to reconcile.

White Noise is the first published novel by Adelaide-based writer Mercedes Mercier. Mercier herself works in the criminal justice system, and draws on that experience to paint a realistic portrait of a major correctional facility and the administration of carceral justice. Against this background she has developed a sympathetic, yet rounded character in Laura. The reader is rooting for her the whole way, yet regularly frustrated and annoyed by her. Crime readers often love to feel one step ahead of the protagonist, and Mercier delivers just enough of this, without diminishing Laura’s strength as a narrative lynchpin. Comedic relief is supplied in the form of Laura’s one friend in the prison, Sam, the chain-smoking (despite the bans!), straight-talking screw who finds herself caught up in Laura’s battle against Jones. Jones himself is a fascinating character: is he misunderstood? Reformed? A psychopath? Or something else?

Mercier has produced a ripping narrative. She jumps straight into the action, and doesn’t let up until the last word. Yet she manages to do this without overwhelming the reader, or jamming too much on the page. Her pacing is almost perfect. Her dialogue is smart, snappy, and authentic. And most importantly, she has ensured that we care what happens to the characters, whether we want redemption for them, or come-uppance, or happily-ever-after.

White Noise is a gold-standard page-turner: twisty without becoming utterly baroque, with a slightly wild plot that is yet grounded in reality, and all revolving around a very relatable protagonist. This is the perfect novel with which to curl up on a winter’s afternoon, under a blanket, in your favourite armchair. Or if you’re lucky enough to be heading somewhere sunny, this is beachside reading perfection.

White Noise is sure to be snapped up as a TV series. And apparently Mercier is currently working on her second novel. Hurrah and hurry up please Ms Mercier. We want more!

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Released: June 2022
RRP: $32.99

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