First and foremost, a large thank you to John Nicholl for providing me with a copy of this novel, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.
I always find myself quite excited when I learn that John Nicholl has published another book. His style and choice of topics never ceases to have me clear my schedule so that I can devour his publications in short order, as they are filled with so many interesting characters and plots. In this piece, the reader meets Alice Granger, a young woman who has been saddled with horrible abuse as a child. She takes it upon herself to rise up and handle things in her own way, no matter the consequences. This vigilante behaviour follows her into adulthood, where she takes a position in a probation office. There, she is privy to the records of many who have made abuse a part of their daily lives. Alice decides to exact her own form of justice, hoping that it will create a form of justice, no matter what society might feel! Nicholl captivates the reader with ease and has found new ways to keep his fans enthralled.
Alice Granger was a victim of severe abuse, as far back as she can remember. Her father preyed on her in numerous ways, leaving physical and emotional scars that would not heal. Vowing to remove herself from being the helpless one, she took matters into her own hands and killed her father, while making it look like a freak accident.
This sense of ‘justice served’ follows Alice into adulthood, where she takes up a career within the probation office. While there, Alice sees many other men who feel the need to abuse children in sundry ways. Feeling a sense of responsibility, Alice lures them into traps and disposes of them, murdering a handful in short order. She’s careful to keep suspicion off her by trying to send the police in many directions, always one step ahead.
While the news is full of these stories, Alice keeps her cool, even as an office supervisor becomes more concerned with the number of their parolees who were being killed. When a Welsh detective starts poking around, Alice knows she will have to be especially careful and takes additional steps to cover her tracks, all the while trying to subdue the voice of her father from echoing inside her head. One false move could end this vigilante campaign and Alice has no intention of letting others suffer while she is caught for something seemingly justifiable. A chilling tale and one many of Nicholl’s fans will find right up their alley.
Each book I read by John Nicholl, I am taken back to my time working within child protective services (as I am sure he is as well, from his years on the job). The details that emerge and the utter horror of cases that are woven into the narrative make these books highly impactful. The sense of vigilante justice, while surely not condoned by many, almost has a place after reading this piece, causing the reader to debate whether Alice Granger is a hero or a cold-blooded killer. The choice is there for all to make!
Alice Granger proves to be a calculating woman in all she does. Throughout the piece, which is written in the form of numerous journal entries for the reader to enjoy, Alice shows her methodical nature and how her life has been a series of horrors that must be rectified. Alice finds little remorse in what she does, feeling that there is not only a need, but a justification for her actions. Readers will see deep inside her psyche as they get deeper into the story, one that will leave some on the fence as to what ought to be done.
Nicholl has a unique way of writing standalone novels that use some of his core characters, even in passing. The handful of individuals who make an appearance in this story serve the purpose to shape the narrative and advance the Alice Granger storyline. Using one of his key series protagonists, DI Laura Kesey, was brilliant and adds a layer of connectivity to the overall collections of novels, while allowing others to take the spotlight without issue. All those who grace the pages of this book have a purpose and Nicholl is careful to place them where it will serve them best.
I loved this story, as I have with many of the others that John Nicholl has written. There is a sense of both depravity and justice in the piece, as though the horrors of child abuse can be counterbalanced with the retribution that is made in the name of the powerless child. The narrative is strong and utilises the first-person journal-like approach to convey the inner thoughts of the protagonist as she tries to suss out what needs doing to bring balance to a jaded world. Short chapters keep the reader propelling forward and can assure a late night binge just to get to the ultimate solution, which Nicholl does so well. Social commentary is woven into the writing, though Nicholl does not try to inculcate the reader, even with all he has seen and the opinions he has surely developed. This impactful book may leave some feeling a tad uncomfortable, but the end result seems to make sense, at least for those with an open mind to how justice might work best and an affinity for the safety of children.
Kudos, Mr. Nicholl, for another impactful novel. I cannot say enough about it and I look forward to seeing what’s next!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons