Today I am finally sharing my thoughts on The Sound Of Her Voice by Nathan Blackwell. This is a book I had on my tbr for far too long – two years in fact as I first heard about it at Newcastle Noir back in 2019. And by the time this review goes out it will have been sat in my scheduled reviews for two months as I am writing this the minute I finished the book. Mandie reviewed the book before and you can read her thoughts here. Here’s what it’s all about;
About the Book
Detective Buchanan remembers every victim. But this one he can’t forget.
The body of a woman has been found on a pristine New Zealand beach – over a decade after she was murdered.
Detective Matt Buchanan of the Auckland Police is certain it carries all the hallmarks of an unsolved crime he investigated 12 years ago: when Samantha Coates walked out one day and never came home.
Re-opening the case, Buchanan begins to piece the terrible crimes together, setting into motion a chain of events that will force him to the darkest corners of society – and back into his deepest obsession…
Shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Best Crime Novel of the Year award, The Sound of Her Voice is a brilliantly gripping crime thriller for fans of Sirens by Joe Knox, Streets of Darkness by A.A. Dhand, Stuart Macbride and Ian Rankin.
Wowsers. Mandie did warn me. Cosy crime this is most definitely not. Brutal, gritty, honest and at times so raw it is difficult to read, The Sound of Her Voice follows Detective Matt Buchanan, a man who is haunted by cases of his past, and who goes to extraordinary lengths to catch his elusive big fish and solve the one case that got away. If you are easily offended, or triggered by books about child abuse or sexual assault then do not read this book as it spares no blushes. You have been warned.
The book is told from the point of view of the main protagonist Matt, a guy whose entire career with the police is marked with darkness from the start, as a rookie being a first responder to the shooting of a colleague. As if that is not dark and tense enough, from here on in the story takes a darker turn with a succession of increasingly disturbing cases crossing Matt’s desk, all of it drawing him back to the man he feels was really responsible for his colleague’s death. From sexual assaults to disturbing stories of child abuse, he is faced with it all and whilst some of his job is fairly pedestrian, routing questioning, searching through endless numbers of files and reports, there is nothing pedestrian about the journey we are taken on. We bear witness to some of the darkest and most heinous crimes you can imagine and whilst we are spared the graphic detail on pretty well all but one of the crimes, there is no mistaking what has happened, not the implications of the investigation and what Matt and his colleagues uncover.
Matt is an interesting character. Father, widower and jaded cop, it is hard to know which part of his life defines him more. He is certainly a man who is unable to fully separate himself from his emotions and whilst he maintains, mostly, a professional demeanour at work, it is clear the impact it is all having on him psychologically. From dark dreams to extreme behaviour, we watch the slow devolution of his character as case after case, and more than the odd highly volatile and deadly situation pushes him to the end of his tether. I really liked the way in which Nathan Blackwell portrays his character, the tone and attitude pitched perfectly for the kind of crimes he is witness too. Speaking from a position of experience, although I trust that he has never quite been as maverick as Matt in execution of his own duties, the author brings a real sense of authenticity to both the more mundane and also the high tension elements of the story.
You get a real sense of place from the writing too. Whether in the suburbs or the more remote parts of the island, even to the scenes in which Matt, a qualified pilot, takes to the air, you can feel and sense every aspect of the locations the author takes us to. It adds another layer of reality to the stories and puts readers in the heart of the action. There are many moments of tension, hold your breath moments in which everything is on the line. There are also moment of poignancy, and ones that will test your emotions. It is a hard heart that will not be moved or angered by what comes to pass, but the author steers clear of the senational, enveloping readers in the truth of the justice system and how, sometimes, the bad guys do not always get their just desserts.
This is not an overly long book, less than three hundred pages, but I felt every page. There is no wasted language, no overly complicated back story to follow, just a series of increasingly harrowing events that, whilst difficult to read, compelled me onward. The pacing, the speed at which the author moves readers forward, never allows us to wallow too much which is likely just as well. As much as I felt at times like I needed to step away, I needed to know what happened next more. I needed to see retribution achieved, every bit as much as Matt. Whether or not I left satisfied … well you’ll need to read yourselves to find out.
About the Author
Nathan Blackwell was raised on Auckland’s North Shore and attended Westlake Boys’ High School before commencing a ten-year career in the New Zealand Police. Seven of those years were spent as a Detective in the Criminal Investigation Branch, where he was exposed to human nature at its strongest and bravest, but also at its most depraved and horrific. He investigated a wide range of cases including drug manufacture, child abuse, corruption, serious violence, rape and murder. Because some of his work was conducted covertly, Nathan chooses to hide his true identity.