The Twisted Knot by J.M Peace
Pan Macmillan, 2016
A marked man. A damaged cop. A town full of secrets. After her abduction and near death at the hands of a sadistic killer, Constable Samantha Willis is back in the uniform. Despite being on desk duty, rumours reach Sammi that Someone in Angel's Crossing has been hurting little girls, and before long a mob is gathering to make sure justice is served. So when a man is found hanging in his shed, the locals assume the pedophile has finally given in to his guilt. That is, until Sammi delves further into the death and uncovers a dark family secret, an unsolved crime and a town desperate for vengeance.
I finished this book in 2 sittings! It's really great and a change of pace to the first installment A Time To Run which was so fast moving and a huge adrenaline rush. A Time to Run is also recommended. For me, it was both a reintroduction to a genre and a revitalising of a genre. I read a lot of the genre when I was a teen and slowly grew away from it largely because of the violence against women that seem often to head towards gratuitousness and even evoking torture porn. Today I only read crime novels that move away from, challenge, or deconstruct this. I know it's a personal choice. It's mine. In crime novels women are so often 'just' the victims yet in Sammi we are introduced to a young police woman who is intelligent, strong, resourceful and cunning. That is a welcome change. Sammi is the heroine of both novels. I actually learnt a lot from reading A Time To Run in terms of self protection and how to mark criminals and attackers. It's essential reading for women in these times of rampant abuse and violence.
I think Peace made a wise choice setting The Twisted Knot close to home and the station. It shows the real impact of both prosecuting a criminal and a trial on the heroine. Only in movies do people walk away from the ordeal she went through in A Time To Run. Focusing on the aftermath to me was real, honest and respectful and also gave much opportunity to show the depth and colour of the character Sammi. Many police procedurals avoid those issues and make the leads superhuman. It was important to show the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder effects on Sami and also the impacts on the station and the various weak male egos around her.
The Twisted Knot followed on seamlessly from A Time To Kill, the reader was right back at the aftermath and stays by Sammi's side all along.
The character construction of Terry was brilliant too, allowing a satisfying ending. Peace's professional policing background comes through and I really liked how the sexism and double standards of the force were shown through the flaws of the male characters. I recommend the Sami series fully. Like Emma Viskic's Resurrection Bay it is a welcome addition to the Australian Crime Fiction Pantheon. It is no surprise it received a 'Sisters in Crime' Award.
If you haven't read A Time To Run get both and read them back to back. My friend is doing that and loving it. I can't wait till the next installment from Sami and Peace. A Time to Run comes out in Germany and Spain later this year. I am sure The Twisted Knot will follow.
by Sarah Ridout, Le Chateau, Echo Publishing 2016