Review - An Isolated Incident, Emily Maguire
AN ISOLATED INCIDENT is one of those books I've been trying to read for a ridiculously long time now, so being able to finally get to it in the context of our f2f bookclub gathering was an added bonus.
This is such a fascinating book, one that worked particularly well for our group. Normally we find the discussion is at its most vibrant when the book isn't particularly liked, or when there is a mix of opinions, but in this case there wasn't a contradictory opinion in the room.
There's been an increase in "consequences' crime fiction recently. Books that consider, in particular, the fallout from violent crime in terms of victim's family, friends and community. AN ISOLATED INCIDENT is obviously such a book where the death of Bella Michael's affects her sister Chris, her ex-brother-in-law, work colleagues, friends, the small town from which Bella and Chris come, and finally the way that the media follows the story and the journalist that stays with it.
There is much to admire in the way that AN ISOLATED INCIDENT is structured. The exploration of outcomes is done without sensationalism and it reads as truthful, warts and all. Chris is not perfect, and she's harder on herself than anybody around her could be. Through her experience it becomes obvious how difficult the situation is for families and those around the victims. There's victim blaming, backgrounds and lifestyles being raked over, instant decisions about likely killers, finger pointing, whisper campaigns and character assassination. As the time between the death of Bella and the charging of a guilty party strings out, interest wans in some quarters, and seems to become more spurious, petty and pointless from others. Balancing between the grief of loss, and the weight of other's opinions, Chris is left attempting to make sense of her own life, her loss, grief, what to do now, her relationships with everybody and who she can trust.
Everything about AN ISOLATED INCIDENT is beautifully done. It's involving and extremely moving, and very cleverly populated by characters who aren't perfect, but aren't particularly bad into the bargain. There's absolutely nothing in anything that any of them have done to deserve the fallout that goes with Bella's murder, and much that makes you stop and think of how much ordinary people have to consider when placed in extraordinary circumstances.
When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.
Unwillingly thrust into the eye of that storm is Bella's beloved older sister, Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, whose apparent easygoing nature conceals hard-won wisdom and the kind of street-smarts only experience can bring.
As Chris is plunged into despair and searches for answers, reasons, explanation - anything - that could make even the smallest sense of Bella's death, her ex-husband, friends and neighbours do their best to support her. But as the days tick by with no arrest, Chris's suspicion of those around her grows.