Friday, September 18, 2015

Every Breath and Every Word, by Ellie Marney

The titles are rather generic, but Every Breath and Every Word are really good. I mean Really. Really. Good. As in, I closed the cover of the first one (a library copy) and immediately went to my Kindle to download the second because there was no way I was waiting until my library got it. Ellie Marney is a fantastic writer. (What is it with those Australians: something in the soil there grows fabulously talented people!)

I'm sorry, Benedict*, but Mycroft has just supplanted you as my favourite Sherlock Holmes interpretation. James Mycroft and Rachel Watts: two teenagers in Melbourne, Australia, neighbours, friends; both smart, observant, good at deductive reasoning. Mycroft is intense, brilliant, damaged, audacious, troubled, but kind. And seriously hot. I mean, wowza. He's got a traumatic past and a broken present and he acts out unpredictably; he leaps off the page like a train wreck.

Rachel Watts is more grounded but she's got her own issues. She's strong—physically and mentally—, stubborn, brave and practical, with the hands-on knowledge and experience of a sheep farmer. I loved all the specific details of life on the farm that she remembers with grief because her family had to leave and come to the city. She feels so out of place in the city; she and Mycroft are two misfits drawn together by their intelligence and by their compassionate observation of the world around them.

Awesome characters! So real, so deep, so rounded; definitely teens, definitely Australian—and at the same time both such great versions of Holmes and Watson. **Very slight spoiler alert, highlight to read: And the chemistry between them? I thought the pages were going to catch fire! 

(Not that romance is the main focus of these books; the best thing about them is the true friendship—and partnership—between Mycroft and Watts. But there's this simmering sexual tension going through the whole thing, and, gotta say, some of the best kissing scenes I've ever read.)

The writing is superb. Vivid, in-your-face, muscular prose. Visceral. I felt as though I were inhabiting Rachel's skin. Her emotions, her reactions all felt completely authentic and dragged me along with her through the story. There is violence and death—it is a murder mystery, after all—and Marney doesn't pull her punches in describing it. But nothing gratuitous or glorified; rather, the investigation of death is a celebration of our fragile humanity. Life matters.

I loved the unapologetic Aussie-ness of the setting and the language. There were words and phrases I had no idea what they meant but it didn't matter; they just added so much color.

There were the odd moments when my suspension of disbelief stuttered—Mycroft and Watts get themselves into some situations that aren't entirely plausible, particularly for teens—but it was always so exciting that I didn't care, and their reactions to said situations were completely believable. The second book is tighter than the first book; I feel as though Marney is just hitting her stride as a writer and I can't wait for the next installment!

I think I have to go with BBQ for my food analogy here (pretty sure that's an Australian thing): meaty, tender, falling-off-the bone ribs with a smoky-sweet-spicy sauce. Lick your fingers and you still want more.

* Cumberbatch. Of the BBC series Sherlock. Which if you haven't seen stop reading this blog and go to Netflix now!

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