Every Breath (Every #1)
Allen & Unwin
Purchased personal copy
Rachel Watts grew up in country Australia on a farm. She went to school via distance education and her days were spent with sheep or fixing fences. But the farm is gone now and Rachel, her brother and her parents live in Coburg, a suburb in Melbourne’s north. Rachel is having trouble adapting to her new home – she misses the country and longs to return there. She wants to study ag courses at university when she finishes school despite the fact that her marks make it possible for her to do almost anything.
Rachel has struck up an unusual friendship with her neighbour James Mycroft who lives two doors down. Mycroft has a passion, perhaps even an obsession for forensics and although he’s brilliant, he’s also troubled and seems to find himself in difficult situations more often than not. When Rachel and Mycroft find the dead body of one of his homeless friends, known as Homeless Dave, Rachel finds herself unable to resist Mycroft’s impassioned plea that they investigate. He claims that the police won’t really care – to them Homeless Dave is just another number. He needs someone that cared about him to get the bottom of what happened to him and why anyone would want to kill a man who had nothing.
The more they investigate, the closer Mycroft and Rachel become and that’s not without its problems. And the closer they get to identifying the murderer, the more they unknowingly put themselves in terrible danger.
This book and its sequel, Every Word have been getting regular praise around the blogs I read and I finally got the chance to buy both of them recently. Sometimes you know from the first couple of pages that you’re really going to love a book and for me, this was one of those books. And the reason is pretty simple: Rachel Watts and James Mycroft. I tweeted whilst reading this that by page 7 I was a little bit in love with Mycroft already. By the end of the book there was no more ‘little’ about it. I suspect I could devote a thousand words alone to the Mycroft character but that would be spoiling things! I love a romance that is allowed to develop and this book does that in spades. Although we don’t really see Watts and Mycroft meeting and becoming friends, their friendship is obviously well established. Watts already knows more about Mycroft than others do, she’s seen him at probably his worst. It is amazing how much Ellie Marney manages to convey with merely a glance between these two characters. You can see so much about what they want, even if they each can’t see it in each other. This is how you do young adult romance and sexual tension and it is awesome.
The story was very engaging – I’ve lived in Victoria for about 8 years now, always within an hour and a bit of Melbourne but I don’t always spend a lot of time there. However these were places that were familiar to me: the police headquarters on St Kilda Rd, the Zoo, etc. Mycroft and Watts are amateur sleuths, taking it upon themselves to investigate quite a grisly murder, the murder of a man who doesn’t really have anyone else to advocate for him and get him some justice. Both of them are very intelligent but approach things in different ways and have different methods. Their friendship has ups and downs and there are times when they are distinctly at odds but they always find their way back to each other. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Mai, their Vietnamese friend who can’t pluck up the courage to tell her mother that she’s dating Sudanese boy Gus. The supporting characters are all so well drawn – Rachel’s protective older brother Mike who struggles with his sibling loyalty, her tired parents who are making a new life in Melbourne, working long hours for little pay. Even the gruff Detective Pickup and his suspicion of Mycroft and his motives is a cop who balances the line well between humouring the teens and their efforts and shutting them down completely.
I always find it much harder to write reviews about books I really enjoyed, it’s hard to express that love without sounding completely gushing and over the top. But this book honestly had me hooked from the start and in Watts and Mycroft, Ellie Marney has created two wonderful characters who bounce off each other so well. Both of them have been displaced – Mycroft after the tragedy that happened to his family in London and Rachel after her family lost their farm and they were forced to move. The sparks between these two are incredible and is great example of how to address a grown up, evolving teenage relationship in fiction. In so many teen novels the romance can often feel like it’s contrived, worked at too hard but in this it’s so natural it’s like it always should have been. Mycroft is brilliant but often erratic and Rachel seems to do a lot to tether him to reality and sanity, keeping him as much on an even keel as she can.
The pace is fast and clever, the plot interesting and a little unusual and my love for the two characters knows no bounds. For everyone who hasn’t read it yet – what are you waiting for? And when you’re done with this one, you can do what I’m about to do and dive into the second book, Every Word.
Book #141 of 2014
Every Breath is book #52 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2014