UNTIL IT'S OVER by Nicci French
Husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French have been churning out the psychological thrillers now for almost ten years since the release of THE MEMORY GAME. Every year another is released and they all feature variations on a similar theme, that being of the urban girl in jeopardy. UNTIL IT'S OVER lacks the density of some of the priors and is almost startlingly light in the mental conundrums we're used to seeing in novels by these authors. The suspense, such as it is when it appears, doesn't gel with the casualness in which the characters go about their lives, as they keep it all upbeat and act strangely indifferent to the murders happening around them.
Perhaps this is a deliberate play for the female market. Not romantic suspense as such, but skimming somewhere close to it. Think backpacker murders in inner city London, only it is an old house with the tenants being virtually squatters. What holds these people in the house is the prospect of losing their cheap rent when the owner decides to move his less than easy-going girlfriend in. It is so absurd to think that a legal battle could even be contemplated in such circumstances, and it simply isn't enough of a plot driver to keep all the characters rooted in what is clearly an extremely dangerous place to be. UNTIL IT'S OVER is a somewhat shallow read, nowhere near the calibre of what Nicci French is more than capable of, yet may be just the ticket if you aren't in the mood to agonize over the plight of the characters, and simply want to see how it all ends.
Kudos to the cover artist as the cover image at first appears to be a rather creepy bug! At second glance, it can be seen that it is actually a bicycle wheel with the spokes bent out of shape (very relevant to how this book begins).
Free and breezy Astrid Bell lives in the moment, working as a bike courier in busy London, placing down no permanent roots or committing herself to relationships that might not make the distance. She shares a crumbling old house in an established street with a bunch of other displaced young people who have little in common other than the fact that money is short and they all agree that the location is good. One night Astrid is accidentally knocked off her bike by an elderly neighbour - no big deal really other than a few cuts and scrapes, but it is what happens after that disturbs the life of the otherwise quiet street. Peggy Farrell the next morning is found dead amongst the dustbins, clearly by the hand of another, and Astrid and her friends were the last to see the poor woman alive.
Attracting trouble once again, Astrid is called to collect a parcel from a wealthy woman's home and finds no parcel, only a dead woman. As she is questioned by the police it isn't immediately obvious to her what the connections to the two deaths are, bearing in mind that is was pure co-incidence that Astrid was the courier called upon that day. The police however are firm and insist that the common factor in this murder, and in subsequent others, of course, is Astrid herself.