Well, this is a coincidence. In Someone who isn’t me and The Source (which we review here this coming Monday), we have two big novels exploring what happens when those in power betray and exploit those without it. They are quite good to read as a pair: The Source looks at rottenness at the heart of the establishment (there is a scene in a basement in Whitehall), while Someone works at a level altogether more individual. Danuta Kot allows a wider range of character perspectives: all of them are damaged but Kot wants to explore whether they can still be good.
Someone is a novel that relies heavily on its sense of place: we’re in the East Riding of Yorkshire – Hull, Bridlington and the evocative, eerie Sunk Island. These are not, in Kot’s telling, glamorous places: we’re at the end of town with gates that don’t shut and flats with mould. Our characters are juggling casual shifts or working with people with addictions, or they are detectives with agendas to pursue.
Kot doesn’t pull her punches as she outlines the way in which ‘the system’ fails the very people it’s meant to protect. The threat of sanctions traps them in dead-end or exploitative jobs. Funding cuts mean that vulnerable people don’t get the support that they need. But Kot also points out that people are often in a position to make some kind of choice. There are genuine acts of heroism in this book as well as its opposite (someone even tries to murder a kitten. I mean come on). Kot is not arguing that individuals can simply rise above their situation, but that there is still room for character. Becca, the protagonist, is a case in point. She puts her safety on the line more than once in order to put others (or a cause) first. Curwen, Kay, Dev and Xanthe give different perspectives as to what it is like to apply your own values and ambitions to your work in the police force and support work respectively. Not everyone is the same. Some are, to be frank, not very nice people. Fans of Lisa Jewell will find much to enjoy both in the details of the characters and how their lives are explored.
As for the plot, I can tell you that we learn quite a lot about drug smuggling and money laundering. There is an air of menace that permeates the novel and a set piece final scene that contains all the twists we could possibly want.
But the best thing I can say about the novel is this. It is over 430 pages, even if the type in my copy is slightly larger than usual. I started reading at 10.30pm one evening, and could not stop until I had finished it. Its ‘just one more chapter’ feel meant I absolutely had to know how it ended. Can you ask for more from a thriller?
Thanks to Simon and Schuster for the review copy.