Not in My Name, by Michael Coolwood

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Michael Coolwood for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always up for a political thriller, I turned to Michael Coolwood’s book, which mixes the fallout from a UK referendum on entering a war with Iraq with the murder of a few outspoken people. There are some great elements here, coaxed out as the story gains momentum, but it was missing the cutting edge I like in my thrillers. In the period immediately following a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should engage in a war against Iraq, both sides are still feeling the intensity of the results. With the YES side having squeaked out a victory with 52%, it would seem the next step is the send in the soldiers. However, Phoebe Green feels otherwise and has a handful of friends who wish to voice their concerns as well. As protests emerge on both sides of the issue, the intensity mounts and heated exchanges become common. Phoebe soon learns that one of her friends, Cassie, has been caught up in one of these clashes and was murdered. The police seem aware and have done some preliminary interviews, but are not working the case, choosing instead to let it go cold. Shocked by this, Phoebe and her friends seek to obtain answers before they make too many accusations. When their communal home in attacked and another friend is killed before them, the masked assailant flees before they can be caught. There is still no movement by the police, which irks Phoebe more than she can express. When she looks a little deeper, Phoebe discovers that there might be some anger within her own group and that one person might have gone rogue, bringing down the very people who seem to share their beliefs. Is there a killer amongst the sheep? What do the police know that they are not acting upon? All this and more remains at the heart of this thriller that cobbles together the ‘what-if’ scenario of a divisive vote sure to tear a country apart. Recommended to those who enjoy thrillers with many layers to their plots, as well as the reader who has a penchant for protest movements.

Many who have read a number of my past reviews will know that I love the political world, including books that weave a thriller angle into a well-delivered piece of writing. Michael Coolwood delivers what might be a loose interpretation to the BREXIT fiasco, but does get his point across about the divisive nature of referenda (and politics in general). Phoebe Green proves to be an interesting protagonist, though is not entirely captivating in her presentation. A strong-willed protestor against the recent fallout of a nationwide vote, she is thrust from a world of preaching about the wrongs of the government decision to become an amateur sleuth in solving the death of her friends. She seems to be a decent character, but I could not find myself connecting as much as I would have liked, which might also explain why I was not as engulfed in the story either. A number of other characters that fill the pages proved to be just as beige for me, though they are able to communicate their points effectively. Coolwood does a decent job in discussing politics and the intricacies of the protest movement. The curious reader will find some of his stances quite intriguing and he does create a moment of pause. A mix of chapter lengths help pull the reader along and then coaxes them to read a little more to see what transpires. While the book itself was not poorly penned, I simply could not find myself as hooked to the plot or much of the development throughout. It could be me, but I will leave it up to others to read and offer their own sentiments on this piece.

Kudos, Mr. Coolwood, for a thinking novel. I certainly can see things from a new perspective and may even come back to check out more of your work.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: