Well I have been waiting a very long time to do this – today I am sharing my thoughts on The Redeemer, the debut novel from Victoria Goldman. My thanks to the author for the advance copy for review. The book is out tomorrow, and here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
‘REPENT BEFORE YOU DIE … OR MAY YOU NEVER R.I.P.’
Threatening plaques, vigilante killings, a Jewish community in an English town – what’s the link? The clock is ticking to the next murder.
After witnessing a racist incident in a small Hertfordshire town, journalist Shanna Regan uncovers a series of threatening fake commemorative plaques. Each plaque highlights someone’s misdemeanour rather than a good deed.
Delving deeper, Shanna discovers these plaques are linked to vigilante killings spanning several decades, with ties to the local Jewish community.
As her search for the truth becomes personal, Shanna puts her own life in danger. Can she stop the next murder in time?
The Redeemer is a compelling, thought-provoking murder mystery debut, featuring themes of prejudice and racism, identity and heritage, revenge and redemption, and secrets from the past.
This book has been a long time coming but I am so glad it is finally being released for readers to savour. I read an earlier version of the book a couple of years ago, so the anticipation for this release, and for seeing what tweaks and changes Victoria Goldman had made was quite high. This is the first book in the (hopefully long running) Shanna Regan series, and finds crime fiction’s latest hero faced with a perplexing mystery to investigate, one that has already proven deadly and may well claim Shanna’s life too.
We meet Shanna in an all too authentic and believable situation – acting as witness to a racist incident in a local park within the town of Hillsbury. Hillsbury is home to a large Jewish community and this incident, a prime example of the anti-semitic feeling that is prevalent throughout the town, leads journalist Shanna to step in to help and to confront the abusers. This simple act of kindness, of stepping forward to do what is right, sees Shanna discover a trail of sinister and threatening paques, as well as unwittingly setting in motion a series of events that puts her on a collision course with faces and events from her past.
I loved the way in which Victoria Goldman has slowly and carefully woven the mystery into this story. Whilst we are unaware of the true nature of the story to begin with, the early scenes really do introduce a very key thread to the story, as well as highlighting the very real issue of racism as it applies to the Jewish community. Situations which to the casual observer may seem like simple name calling that most would just ignore, are amplified, and their emotional impact radiates from those early pages, very key moments in understanding what is set to come to pass. The author has also done a great job in bringing Judaism to the fore in a way which informs but doesn’t overpower the reader, and I felt I knew a lot more about the faith as a whole by the end, that new found appreciation also helping in finding an emotional connection to the story.
There is an undulating sense of threat which flows throughout the story, from those early pages where the threat is physical, to the tension that surrounds Shanna as she digs deeper into the history of the people behind the plaques. There is the direct threat which Shanna experiences, the very real and actual manifestation of danger that she is subjected to in several scenes, but also that constant sense of being watched. Stalked even. Secrets that Shanna keeps to herself add to the tension, the reveal coming at just the key moment to drive the story but also to keep me gripped by the story.
Shanna is an interesting character. On one hand feisty and somewhat stubborn, but on the other there is a vulnerability about her which makes her feel a more rounded and authentic character. It is clear that there are secrets from her past that we have yet to learn, even parts of her life that have been kept from her by well meaning family members, but as she slowly pieces together her memories, we start to build a clearer picture of exactly what is happening in the seemingly quiet community of Hillsbury.
This is not a fast paced novel – not your high impact thriller – more a considered and suspense laden read where the pacing and the intrigue build gradually until we reach the high stakes and somewhat surprising reveal. I certainly hadn’t seen it coming, the author keeping the killer hidden in plain sight. There are no end of suspicious characters, a pool of suspects and people I would not entirely trust, and the more Shanna investigates, the murkier the waters become. But as for the who-dunnit? Well, personally, I just hadn’t expected that, even if there was a certain inevitability about some of the other key revelations.
This is a really assured debut, one which gives readers a very clear vision of a somewhat underrepresented community, both in crime fiction and beyond, where the mystery gripped me from start to finish and the characters stayed in my thoughts long after the final page was turned. It was a wonderfully fresh approach and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the author takes Shanna, and us as readers, next.
About the Author
Victoria Goldman MSc. is a freelance journalist and editor. She is a book & stationery addict, crochet novice and nature lover (especially the local wild parakeets). She lives in Hertfordshire and is married with two sons.