Books: An Unfamiliar Murder

Jane Isaac’s debut novel is a fast paced, unpredictable thriller.

Umbreen Ali
By Umbreen Ali
Columnist
June 21, 2012, 11:40 am
Books: An Unfamiliar Murder

Jane Isaac’s debut novel is a fast paced, unpredictable thriller.

The plot introduces Anna, a young school teacher living a relatively normal life with a neurotic mother whose home “looked as though it had been prepared for a magazine shoot”, a patient father and an empathetic boyfriend, all of whom become embroiled in the murder plot. In one evening Anna’s life changes irreversibly after she discovers a dead body in her flat, “whose eyes were left open deliberately for maximum effect. The killer was intent on creating quite a show.”

From being the chief suspect to being the only link to the crime, we see Anna’s life fall apart unimaginably yet almost methodically. “Somebody must hate me very much.”

As her family relations becoming fraught and strained, her personal life faces its own complex challenges. “Her life had been shattered in a matter of days…Nothing in her life was private anymore…with the presence of the police permanently downstairs, she felt that she was under house arrest.”

Volatile family mysteries unravel for Anna in the quest for the killer. Revelations that inadvertently emerge because a horrendous crime was committed leading us to believe the death had to happen for such clarification.

“It feels like everything is broken and can’t be mended, and in the meantime I’m suspended in limbo, not knowing who I am.” And with one murder committed and a killer “fascinated by the power and destruction” of his actions it is a case of “round one complete, and now for round two.”

The reader meets the enigmatic Detective Chief Inspector Helen Lavery leading the murder investigation, a pragmatic young widow whose allure is that she never bears traits of self pity. “Who would want to have a relationship with a 36 year old widow with two teenage kids who still lived with her mother? Not exactly an exciting prospect.”

Alongside exploring the dark case, Isaac meticulously evokes the domestic strife that any parent would face as Helen wrestles with the moral quandaries of being a single working mum. “There were days when she wanted her independence back, to look after her family, bring back a partner and have mad, passionate impromptu sex on the dining table and stay in bed until lunchtime the following day."

That juxtaposed with the inevitable workplace friction with thinly veiled games of one-upmanship going on, Isaac gives her character that personable feel that could so easily be vacant from a novel of this genre.

The lives of Anna and Helen move seamlessly all under the rigorous inspection of the brutal killer who “was working up to his crescendo…he had already annihilated the pawns…tomorrow he would face his Queen. And everybody knows once the Queen is lost, the game is inevitably over.”

Isaac engages the reader, without any character clichés, into the complex lives of both women. Nothing is sensationalised. It is like being fixated by a compelling and chilling crime drama on TV.

Isaac evokes the gritty realism that a murder investigation entails. She has produced a page turner where a lifetime of secrets and mysteries are unravelled, and builds the story to a suitably dramatic climax with the reader wondering not only who did it, but why they did it.

An Unfamiliar Murder holds a raw narrative power and moves at an indefatigable pace with a satisfying ending. An engaging thriller that falls into the ‘can’t put it down’ bracket.

‘An Unfamiliar Murder’ is available on Amazon UK in paperback and Kindle format.

Add a Comment