CUT & RUN - Alix Bosco
We used to wonder what was in the water in Scotland and Ireland, there was such good crime fiction coming out of those locations. It's rapidly getting to the stage where we have to add New Zealand to the list. Now I think I've already warned people to stand by for some enthusiastic reviews - well this is one of them!
CUT & RUN is the first Anna Markunas book from Alix Bosco (pseudonym), luckily there's already a second book out and let's hope there's a lot more to come.
Bosco has pulled off a very stylish balancing acts in CUT & RUN with a blend of quite a lot of Anna's personal life and background, within the crime narrative. Neither side interferes overtly with the other, in fact a lot of the personal elements provide background either to Anna's motivations or even her attitudes and methodology. It helps that there's a nice line in sardonic humour built into the telling of this story. Anna's got a dry, self-deprecating way about her, which makes her very accessible - a sympathetic character. And there's quite a bit to feel some sympathy with. Anna worked for many years as a social worker, helping the most disadvantaged in society. She'd burnt out and walked away from that career, starting out again as a freelance researcher. Investment worries have driven her husband to commit suicide, leaving Anna to deal with her own grief and the resulting family fall-out, including a drug addicted son and an uptight daughter, despite her own happy marriage.
Working for an old family friend and defence lawyer with personal problems of his own, she is drawn into the case of a young man accused of killing a famous rugby star. The accused young man is somebody she remembers from a torrid family rescue back in her social work days, and somehow, the accusation just doesn't seem to make sense, nor does the accused's attitude. Anna puts herself into some difficult situations to find out the truth, but, in that way that this author has of telling a story, there's no sense of daft femjep. There's some deliberate jeopardy undoubtedly, but at no stage does the reader feel like Anna's not completely in control. Or at least aware. Okay so occasionally she's running a lot on instinct and less on street-smart, but she's not an idiot and she can peddle hard if she needs to.
There is a bit of romance towards the end of this book - one of those older people with their edges roughed up by death, divorce and a desire to dull the lights in front of the mirror just a bit - romances. As with all the personal elements, the romance isn't out of place, it's adroitly handled. There's a real sense of searching for justice in the investigation, setting the wrongs of the world right, and making something right. What is really appealing about Anna is that she's prepared to stick with a problem regardless of how dodgy the circumstances get because it's the right thing to do. What's really appealing about CUT & RUN is that it feels real. Anna seems like somebody you would know; the world she inhabits feels just like our world; the problems, the happy moments, the sad moments, the challenges and the sheer living of life is all so very very realistic.
When a rugby star who began life on the streets is murdered in the arms of a beautiful celebrity, it seems to be an open-and-shut case of a drug deal gone wrong but Anna Markunas, legal researcher for the prime suspect's defence team, begins to uncover a far more sinister truth - one that could ultimately destroy her.