Review copy provided by publisher
Pan Macmillan, February 2013
Synopsis- When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a desperate cry for help. His frantic claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional. Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure…Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled. Then, just when she thinks she’s closing in on the right person, a shocking turn of events puts more people in danger and might just see the killer slip through her hands.
Review- A man drives into a pole; he claims he was being followed. Paramedics respond and deem him as mentally unstable; they drop him off at ED at the local Hospital for a psychiatric assessment but he leaves before being seen. Hours later his body is found under a train. Was he pushed or was it suicide?
That’s what Detective Ella Marconi and her partner Murray are trying to find out. Howell weaves a web of suspicious circumstances, peculiar characters and a line of investigation that comes up against bureaucratic government processes to generate an absorbing crime novel where each question asked creates more questions. This novel is the sixth in the Ella Marconi detective series and the first I’ve read, but I don’t think this detracted from the reading experience.
With a paramedic background, Howell provides professional insights into the work (and personal) life of a paramedic through the characters Jane and Alex. I can only really get into a crime novel if I can connect with the lead characters and Howell manages to create interesting, flawed characters, each with their own personal quandaries. Jane discovers her boyfriend is still married; Alex has signs of PTSD and as a result is highly anxious about the safety of his teenage daughter Mia whose behaviour has shifted to uncontrollable in recent months. Then there’s Ella who cares for a doctor who is suddenly giving her the cold shoulder. She’s also up against a brusque boss whom she clashes with, often.
Ella really pushes for the investigation to stay open, she’s convinced the victim died from suspicious causes not from suicide and I particularly admire how Howell unravelled the victim’s life, exposed his mental health issues to form doubt in the mind of the reader and then intricate it with various other dubious characters so that the truth behind the death isn’t revealed until the very end.
At times I felt the characterisation relied too heavily on text messaging rather than actual interactions between the characters and their significant others. There’s Alex waiting on text messages from his daughter, Jane receiving text messages that she routinely dismisses and deletes and Ella who is deliberating over the impersonal texts she receives. I understand that the professional roles of the characters dominated their lives for the purpose of the story and perhaps this reflected their work/life balance and brief text messages and late night catch ups was the reality of their life.
Web of Deceit is a plot driven novel following the investigation of the crime and the tight threads of deceit are slowly unravelled until the very end. What I also noticed was that this story is also very dialogue-driven too. Though the dialogue was realistic and fitting to the investigative procedures, I would have liked a bit more balance in the story, perhaps more description or narrative to connect with the characters not just through direct voice.
Web of Deceit is an engaging crime novel from a respected Australian female crime writer and I will undoubtedly look into her earlier titles now that I’ve got a taste of her work.
“I loved this book!”
Web of Deceit can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers
This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge: