Book - Rehab Run

Susan Omand feeds her addiction to crime novels and reads Rehab Run by Barbra Leslie, out now from Titan Books...

Danny Cleary is getting clean. When her twin sister was murdered and her nephews kidnapped, drug-addicted Danny crossed North America with her brother Darren pursuing those responsible and being pursued. Now she's in rehab in the peace and tranquility of rural Nova Scotia; the hardest thing she's smoking is nicotine, and she’s taken up running. This was exactly what she needed. Then she finds a human hand in a mailbox and her rural idyll is shattered. Once again Danny is drawn into a complex underworld of insanity, revenge and murder. She will have to fight to protect her family and uncover the truth.

I hadn’t read anything by Barbra Leslie before (this is the second book in a series) and, I must admit, my crime novel preference tends more towards the 1950s gumshoe noir style, think Ed McBain and Mickey Spillane, so I was interested to see if a “modern” setting and a new writing style would hold any appeal. It did.

I realised I was hooked when I started trying to second guess the plot twists, for there are many, and I knew that full-on addiction had set in when I started carrying the book around with me so that I could grab 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there to keep up with the story – which was very easy to do as the chapters are nice and short. I really enjoy the use of first person narrative in crime novels (see previous noir choices) as, to me, it helps to keep the excitement going as you’re “living the part” of the main character. Barbra’s use of this made it pretty much effortless for me to get into the character of Danny and understand her mindset and thought processes, finding things out when she did and participating, rather than observing the action from a distance. All the characters in the book were interesting and well rounded and everyone had enough shades of grey that it wasn’t obvious from the start who the “good and bad” guys were. It’s also incredibly refreshing to see that the diversity of the characters was true diversity and felt very natural, neither shoe-horned in nor made a big deal about like a lot of “box-ticking” books do these days. The drug-use aspect of the storyline was also handled really well, neither glorifying nor vilifying, making it neither sexy nor sordid and at no point did the author preach her own opinions on it, it was just there and, yes, it was necessary for the character and the plot. Another thing that I felt was necessary, and again really well done, was the violence in the book. Yes it is graphic and bloody and there is a suitably high body count but it’s done in a very Tarantino way, stopping as suddenly as it starts, that is very in-keeping with the tense thriller style and stopped the story tipping over into being a horror novel by not dwelling on it.

So, is this the perfect Crime novel? For me, not quite, as there were a couple of issues with it that I found irritating. Firstly there were the ** spoilers **. No, I mean actual spoilers for the first book which, as I said at the start, I haven’t read yet. Yes some of the information helped with character background but giving away what felt like the whole plotline, and the killers, from the first book seemed pointless. For readers who had read the first book, they would know this already, and for those of us that haven’t, it’s kind of put me off reading it for a while at least knowing that, when I do get round to it, I’ll approach it differently knowing “whodunit,” like watching a film repeat without the payoff of the excitement of the unknown the first time. The other issue for me is a minor niggle but worth mentioning nonetheless. I feel the story should have finished half a dozen chapters before it did. That last plot twist was, in my view, unnecessary, partly because it wasn’t as believable as the others, like the author felt that something else was needed from that character so tacked a bit on to the end, and partly because I always think it’s good to have a few ends left untied at the end of a crime novel and this felt more like a convoluted way of “tidying things up” rather than the final “killer” twist.

Other than that though, this is a cracking read and highly recommended as an all action way to pass a journey or wind down from a hard day. And I will read the first book in the series... eventually.

Image - Titan Books

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