Bookouture | 2018
Filed Under: Prom Night Dumpster Baby
This was pretty enjoyable, I have to say. For a debut in a series, it hit mostly all the right notes. But, at the same time, it was missing aspects that I look for to really make a procedural more than just the typical.
The story boils down to an abandoned baby, a woman who’s been missing for four years (who is the mother of that baby,) and one seasoned – but borderline PTSD – detective on the case.
You hear all of that and you think, yes gimme! It sounds like the perfect recipe.
But I’m left feeling a little bit like Gordon Ramsey on Master Chef when someone brings up a beautiful looking dish and he tastes it and says: “It looks fantastic, but where’s the seasoning? Did you salt the fucking chicken?”
Carla Kovach forgot to salt the fucking chicken on this one.
It’s a minor mistake in the grand scheme of things, but it means something is off the whole time you’re eating.
I don’t know why I’m doing a food metaphor, honestly. I hate food metaphors. And I hate cooking.
What I’m really trying to get is this: the novel takes place in the UK. Where? It’s vague and the setting never comes alive on the page. It’s such a flat, blank landscape.
What does the main character, DI Gina Harte, look like? Couldn’t even begin to tell you. I know she has hair because you are told she has hair. Where were all the in-between information that brings a story, a setting, and an atmosphere to life? Where are all the red herrings and clues and misdirection and “twists” (promised right on the cover) that are necessary when crafting a thriller crime story? Put up some fucking missing posters.
In terms of plot, this was pretty straightforward. Which most people will not care about, but I’m a picky bitch.
The case DI Harte and her team are working on has no real surprises or mid-point escalations and obstacles. It’s just A to Z, progressing along as you would expect, pretty uneventfully. Then they’ve caught the bad guy and it’s wrapped it all up. I get that in real life, that’s usually how it works. Real detectives are not typically facing dangerous twists and turns. I’ve watched enough The First 48 to understand reality, edited as it may be. But I’m not reading these books to be in reality, I’m reading them to escape it. To feel some heightened emotions, to tap into my empathy and outrage and gross-out factor. The crimes and events should be dialled up to eleven. They should take you on a ride. An evil fucking ride.
That kind of tension is missing – the pulse-accelerating feeling you get as you move through a story that is hitting the gas on suspense and thrills. Read: Meg Gardiner.
I guess you could say this was very British.
Perhaps the author was looking to create something that was serious about its realness and had more emphasis on the personal side of DI Harte. And that’s fine – I’m all about the personal aspect of a character taking equal time in a crime fiction novel as long as it’s interesting. I want to know the characters, especially in a series. What drives them? Why do they feel compelled to do this job? How are their relationships affected? Give me that depth. Those elements come down to more than just hair colour (even though that’s a nice picture to subtly paint, as well.)
So, where this book really excels in my opinion, is in the main character of Gina Harte. Kovach did an excellent job in crafting DI Harte as a full person. Her past, her relationship with her daughter, and her dedication to the job. I felt like I really understood where this character was coming from, even if I didn’t get a physical picture of her.
I loved the juxtaposition that was created between Gina’s past and present. Her marriage to her former abusive asshole husband ended when he died after a fall down the stairs. Did she push him? Did she push him just a little, to be sure he was really falling? Did she just not attempt to save him? Is there a difference?
She’s a cop who has dedicated her life to solving homicides and she’s not even sure if she committed one herself. That is fire plotting.
But truthfully, without DI Harte being as strong in characterization as she was, this book would be a dud. The crime that everything revolved around was too linear, uneventful and kind of boring. But because of Harte, I’ll be back for the next one in the series.
She thought he’d come to save her. She was wrong.
Deborah Jenkins pulls her coat around her as she sets out on her short walk home in the pouring rain. But she never makes it home that night. And she is never seen again …
Four years later, an abandoned baby girl is found wrapped in dirty rags on a doorstep. An anonymous phone call urges the police to run a DNA test on the baby. But nobody is prepared for the results.
The newborn belongs to Deborah. She’s still alive.
Book source: The publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.