I know I promised you Part 2 of my productivity series this month, but I couldn’t resist stopping to recommend this fantastic book to you–you guys know how that feels, right? I’ll be back to work for you soon enough, but today I want to talk about a book I loved. It’s an Australian book that’s a brilliant nod to an old story, as well as a super smart mystery with a complex tapestry of diverse characters in a very special setting. This is a teenaged Holmes and Watson in Melbourne, Australia. Climb on board, my friends, you’re going to love it.
When James Mycroft drags Rachel Watts off on a night mission to the Melbourne Zoo, the last thing she expects to find is the mutilated body of Homeless Dave, one of Mycroft’s numerous eccentric friends. But Mycroft’s passion for forensics leads him to realize that something about the scene isn’t right—and he wants Watts to help him investigate the murder.
While Watts battles her attraction to bad-boy Mycroft, he’s busy getting himself expelled and clashing with the police, becoming murder suspect number one. When Watts and Mycroft unknowingly reveal too much to the cold-blooded killer, they find themselves in the lion’s den—literally. A trip to the zoo will never have quite the same meaning to Rachel Watts again…
I KNOW RIGHT? Let’s break it down.
Every Breath is set in my home town of Melbourne, Australia, and let me tell you, Ellie Marney gets it right. From the turnstiles of Melbourne Zoo to the arguments about which way to go to avoid a traffic jam, she knows this city. If you want a book that will transport you to a place you’ve never been (though really, why haven’t you come to visit us?) and bring you up close and personal with the grittier side of an Australian city, this is it. Step outside the settings you’re used to and try something completely different—you’ll love it.
The cast of characters in Every Breath is something to behold. Our narrator is Rachel Watts, a country girl whose family has been forced into the city when their farm goes bankrupt. She’s desperately homesick, and as her family struggle to adjust, life keeps piling one thing after another on top of her. Rachel has every reason to be bitter, and she could easily have been that sort of narrator—finding fault with everything. Frankly, she has the right to complain. She could have been suspicious of the cast of characters she meets in this book, some of whom are unlike the people she knew at home. Instead, we encounter characters who are ethnically and sexually diverse, who suffer mental illness and are unique in many ways, and meet each of them through Rachel’s unique—and nonjudgemental—perspective. We sit down and have a chat with the sort of homeless guy most people carefully walk past. We learn to question first impressions. Rachel’s perspective forces the reader to slow down and take a much closer look at everyone around them.
I’m the first to admit I’m no Miss Marple, but gosh, the mystery was well done. Marney resisted the urge to make Mycroft some sort of super freak, taking short-cuts and effortlessly deducing anything that stands still for a moment. Instead, he has to think, sweat, rely on Watts, and take public transport to follow up on leads—these two are teenagers, after all. He’s a dark, troubled teen who isn’t coping with the death of his parents, as confused and self-destructive as he is cuttingly intelligent. And behind this book’s murder mystery—which is, don’t worry, resolved by the end—there’s the promise of a much larger, even darker mystery that will span the series.
Sometimes when an old story is retold, the author or filmmaker sticks too closely to the original source material—decisions that originally made sense don’t now, but are stuck in there anyway. Character traits that don’t work in a new place or time hang about, and they jar. Ellie Marney dodges this deftly. She clearly draws her inspiration for Mycroft and Watts from the original Sherlock and Watson, but she makes the story her own, and it’s all the richer for it.
Every Breath is out now in Australia, and the sequel, Every Word, has just launched. For readers in North America, Every Breath will be out later this year—go add it on Goodreads so you don’t forget, or better yet, pre-order it from your favourite bookseller. (As per this post from Claire Legrand, pre-orders are like unicorns, a fantastic way to show support for your favourite authors!)
What’s a book you love set in a place you know? I’d love to hear your recommendations!