Author: Christopher Brookmyre
Publication Date: January 28th 2016
Publisher: Little Brown
Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.
Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for.
Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance.
But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow…
This is the second book I’ve read by Christopher Brookmyre, the first being a sci-fi number. This was a different read but no less awesome. Brookmyre yet again delivers the addictive, dark fictional worlds we have come to expect from him, and he nails it home each time. This is a mystery/thriller series that I’m going to go back and read more of because it literally ticks all of my boxes. Thrills ✔️, murder ✔️unreliable narrator✔️ and twists ✔️ Although this was the first in series I happened to pick up, this definitely works as a standalone novel. The writing style of Brookmyre is shrewd, evocative and quite frankly spine-tingling. It was the perfect read for October and it put you right in the frame of mind for Halloween. Ideal for those grey nights with the rain battering on your window, it matches perfectly with the dark and grey nature of the story. If you love a crime/thriller you will not be disappointed. All is not what it seems.
We meet Diana Jager, a force to be reckoned with, an expert surgeon. She gets to cut people open for a living and she is shockingly good at it. She is known as “bladebitch” in the online community. She is a dominant female in a male dominated environment. She fights for women’s rights in her career. A nickname worthy of her prowess in her career or a jealous nickname? The career has been the easy part for her – she was so focussed on not becoming her mother that love completely eluded her. Just why was she so unlucky in love? Did she just not have the capacity for commitment and everything that was associated with it or like everything else in her life, it become an obsession and hence scare any potential partner away?
Diana has a terrible track record with hospital IT. They blew the cover of her online persona and inevitably put her career at risk in London. She takes up a position in Inverness at the Royal Infirmary and clashes once again with a member of IT. Computer glitches and problems galore leads her to constantly having to be at IT’s mercy and she has the pleasure of the new guy, Peter. Diana realises immediately that he is different in all ways. He doesn’t know her past, she feels at ease in his presence and can admit how her life has become nothing but a sad existence of working and a lonely life, once where she doesn’t socialise, and she breaks down. He’s younger but that doesn’t seem to faze him. He seems to be amazed at Diana’s ambition and drive to be the best in her profession. Little does he realise that there is a fragile past, a dysfunctional childhood that has fuelled her unhealthy drive to be the best. He ticks all of her boxes and she begins to see a way forward for them, together. They marry, plan to have children but then disaster strikes, Peter careens off the road in his car into local crash site, Widows Falls. Peter is presumed dead.
We have POV’s from Jack Parlabane, a “been around the block a bit” ex journalist. He is separated from his wife, Sarah and life has been giving him a hard deal of late. He develops an interest in the case when Lucy, Peter’s sister hires him to investigate in the ins and outs of the case and work out just what happened to her brother. Lucy is a strange character for sure. Quite clearly, she has the view that Diana’s and Peter’s marriage wasn’t the fairy-tale that everyone else has painted it to be. From Diana’s POV it is obvious that Diana and Lucy didn’t get on, honestly, she hated Lucy. Lucy made veiled threats towards Diana but made herself the innocent party. There was clearly some deep-seated issues between Peter and his sister, what were they and just how deep did it go? Jack ends up revealing some pretty messed up revelations of the dark and twisted variety during his investigations.
This book was so cleverly written, taught with tension and suspense that I wouldn’t be surprised if this book leads onto a drawn-out book hangover. The characters are multi-faceted, a hauntingly devastating look at human vulnerability. My head actually felt like it resembled something closer to scrambled egg than a brain towards the end due to the complexity of back and forth arguments steered every which way. I genuinely couldn’t figure out the end game of this novel – I thought I had it figured out at one point but was categorically proven wrong. Brookmyre could write himself out of a straightjacket, seriously, has up there with the best. Ian Ranking and Christopher Brookmyre is the Scottish dream team. Brookmyres prose flows like running water, its sublime. I could totally see this series being a mini-series on Netflix.