What better way to celebrate your birthday than taking your sister on a hot air balloon ride across the Northumberland countryside? Of course, things could only take a downturn if you happen to fly over a murder being committed. And then the murderer gets a good look at your face. And then the balloon crashes, killing everybody on board apart from you…
Unfortunately, the killer, Patrick Faa, knows full well that Jessica Lane survived the crash and is determined to remove the only witness to his crime. As she runs for her life, pursued by a most relentless opponent, is there anywhere that is truly safe?
If nothing else, Dead Woman Walking wins the prize for the blurb that gives the least away about the plot of a book. So many times, a blurb has given away something crucial, or even hinted at something that the writer wouldn’t have intended. But here, the blurb (which I’ve basically summarised above) barely scratches the surface of what’s going on here.
I’ve been a fan of Sharon Bolton’s work ever since I accidentally read Now You See Me – it hooked me straight away, and I’ve read everything she’s written since. The absolute high points, for me, were the third Lacey Flint novel, Like This, For Ever, which contains a beautiful piece of misdirection, and the standalone Little Black Lies, a stunningly constructed three-hander, but I’ve never been disappointed with her work. And that certainly is no exception to that.
The central characters are fully formed individuals. As we get to know Jessica and her sister, in part through flashbacks, the detective leading the hunt for her and Patrick Faa and his associates, the reader becomes more and more involved in the tale. Meanwhile the author drip-feeds plot details so that the big picture slowly comes into focus. The more alert reader may be able to bring it into focus just that little bit earlier but doing so is never less than satisfying.
In fact, it’s a sign of how much I enjoyed this book is that despite spotting the major plot twists in advance – well, I wasn’t convinced about the major one as I actually thought Sharon Bolton might have been going for the double-bluff – I never stopped reading, getting through most of the book in a single sitting. And it shows how involved I was with the characters that the final page brought a lump to my throat.
One of the best-written thrillers that I’ve read for a while, a book that deserves to be a best-seller. Highly Recommended.
Many thanks to Transworld Publishing for the review copy. This is Stop Nine on the Dead Woman Walking Blog Tour – do check out my fellow bloggers’ opinions as well. And then go and read the book…