Friday, 7 October 2016

Book Review: STRANGE THINGS DONE by Elle Wild

Strange Things Done

 Strange Things Done
Author: Elle Wild
Publisher: Dundurn
Read: September 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Strange Things Done is a top-notch thriller — a tense and stylish crime novel that explores the double themes of trust and betrayal.

My thoughts:

Young journalist Josephine Silver, trying to escape a traumatic past, has taken on the position as editor of a small weekly newspaper in the remote town of Dawson City in the Yukon, shortly before winter is about to cut the town off from the outside world. Drunk after a night in the local pub trying to meet the locals, Jo wakes at home with no memory of the previous night’s events. When police come knocking on her door asking questions about the presumed suicide of a local woman near a place Jo had been spotted with one of the local men that night, Jo is shocked and confused. Where was she last night and what has happened to her? Trying to find answers, she encounters a lot of resistance from the locals, who close ranks against any outsider trying to pry into the town’s business. But soon more people turn up dead, and Jo is determined to uncover the truth – ultimately putting herself in danger.  With all escape routes now closed off by the weather, Jo’s fight for justice soon becomes a fight for her own life ...

Imagine being trapped in a wild and primitive land with a killer on the loose. Snowed in with no escape route, not knowing whom you can trust, and who is trying to hurt you. Knowing that if you disappeared today, or tomorrow, no one would be able to come to the rescue, and no one who cares about you would even know you are gone. This is Jo’s reality in the wilds of the Yukon, whilst her desire to find the killer on the loose battles her urge to flee to safety whilst the airports and roads are still open. I loved the Way Elle Wild paints a vivid picture of a wild land, where people still fall victim to nature’s whims, despite the advances of modern technology. It evokes a forgotten era of Jack London’s time, when trappers battled the snow and the ice, pursued by wolves and exposed to nature’s extremes in a hostile but strangely beautiful environment. I felt the tension mount as Jo set out to uncover the truth behind the recent spate of killings, and felt shivers down my spine as she exposed herself to the unknown dangers all around her. Being a newcomer, a city-dweller, a stranger to town, Jo had a hard time fitting in, and her struggles were ever evident, making her even more vulnerable than a single female in a male dominated environment would have been at the best of times. Wild does well to portray both Jo’s vulnerability as well as her desperation to find the courage to stop running, and her final resolve to stand her ground and fight for her future.

The novel teems with interesting characters befitting the setting – independent misfits, people who have chosen the isolation and extreme conditions because they don’t fit accepted social norms, or who have adapted over long years of living there. And of course there is the small town mentality, people closing ranks against the stranger, the newcomer, the outsider. Whilst I initially found the pace a bit slow, the characters and setting kept me interested and reading on, and I soon felt myself drawn into this cold alien place with its bunch of eccentric inhabitants. I never quite warmed to Jo, finding her constant bad decisions a bit irritating, but her support cast were well drawn and the mounting sense of danger made for tense reading. All in all, I loved the different setting of the book, which made for a great armchair travel experience and brought back memories of my father reading Jack London’s In The Wild to me on cold winter nights. An interesting debut novel, I look forward to reading more from this author in future.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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