Blood & Ink by Brett Adams melds a pretty classic murder mystery plot with an unusual slant on the perpetrator. The result is a genuinely tricky novel, likely to have readers going backwards and forwards as they try to decide what’s really going on.
Jack Griffen is a professor of literature in Perth. While he’s reasonably successful professionally, his personal life is nothing to boast about. His ex-wife and daughter have relocated to the USA. He’s somehow let most of his friends slip away. His health is precarious, and so are his finances.
Despite this, or maybe partly because of it, Jack enjoys showing off for exchange student Hieronymus Beck. Hiero, as Jack calls him, begged to be allowed to sit in on Jack’s classes. He spends hours with Jack, debating literature and – as Jack sees it – lapping up Jack’s wisdom and experience.
One night, Hiero accidentally leaves behind a copy of the notes for his proposed crime novel. Jack glances through them, thinks Hiero has a lot of work to do, and thinks nothing more of it. But then, before he can return the notes to Hiero, an attack takes place: one eerily similar to the first crime depicted in Hiero’s notes.
Soon Jack finds himself asking whether Hiero is plotting a novel, or plotting a series of murders. And in either case, what’s Jack going to do about it?
It’s hard to say more about this novel without including spoilers. Suffice to say that quite a complex web is woven. I’ll bet you decide early on that you know what’s going on and who’s doing what. And I also bet that you’ll change your mind about that half a dozen times before the end.
This is a really good mix of familiar tropes, moments of “aaargh, I saw that coming, why didn’t he?”, and surprising twists and turns. It’s very effective, often letting you think you’ve worked it out before it shoves you off balance again.
It does take a little time to sink into the world of the novel. Indeed, I found that I couldn’t read it in short, snatched bursts – I had to leave it until I could spend a decent amount of time with the novel. But once I found that time, I became absorbed in the narrative. It’s not exactly unputdownable, but it’s certainly a novel that holds your attention for extended periods.
I really appreciated that it was best suited to longer stretches of reading – this feels a little unusual and I liked the way it made “Blood & Ink” stand out for me.
A substantial part of the novel is told from Jack’s point of view. He’s a very familiar character – most readers will feel that they know him. This is where much of the emotion of the novel comes from. Not just Jack’s reactions to events, but our growing frustration with and for him as events seem to spiral out of his control, and our immersion in his emotions.
This is primarily a novel for crime readers. However, it might also appeal to readers who like to have their expectations confounded, or to those who look primarily for strong characters.
I enjoyed this very much. It’s different in flavour to many other crime novels, while still planting itself firmly in the genre. It’s well written, and well suited to the sort of evening when you have a couple of hours to curl up with a good book.
ISBN: 9781760 990879
Copy courtesy of Fremantle Press (2022)
A selection of our Beauty and Lace Club Members are reading Blood & Ink by Brett Adams. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember, and I love sharing that joy.
I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, across all genres. There’s not much I won’t at least try. I’ve been an enthusiastic book reviewer for years. I particularly enjoy discovering writers new to me, and sharing good writing with others.
My career has included time spent writing and editing technical documents, but it’s fiction that really moves me. I’ve reviewed for a number of different outlets over the years, and have been a judge in literary competitions.
I’m now raising little bookworms of my own, which brings a whole new kind of joy to sharing books.
More of my reviews can be found on my review blog www.otherdreamsotherlives.home.blog .