Review: Past Life

I really really liked this book, which I read, for the most part, up a mountain whilst My Best Guy watched Star Trek. Probably my favourite way to read a book if I'm honest.

The basic premise (because we know I don't like to give too much away when I'm talking about a thriller) is this: Abigail Boone is a former police officer. Former because whilst on the job she was kidnapped and beaten and left with no recollection of her life before. Her job, her friends, her husband and son, the music she likes, her favourite food: it's all gone. Frustrated with the people around her wanting her to be a person she doesn't feel like she is anymore and with no idea of who the new Abigail Boone is, she becomes fixated on solving the case she was working on before. 

It wasn't perfect. There were a couple of minor niggles, which I'll get out of the way now before we get into the nitty gritty because I don't want this review to be about them. I want it to be about the many many good things, but I also feel like I have to mention them.


1. I could tell this was a book written by a man. I mean this in that the main character, Boone, is a woman and at least two of the major supporting characters were also women and whilst I loved all tof them individually, I never quite settled into how they interacted with each other. The characterisation was excellent, and some of the dialogue was really sharp but it wasn't easy conversation between women; I don't know any women (and I am one) who talk to each other like these women do and it felt like what it was: a man writing female conversation.
2. The violence. The violence, in particular, at the conclusion of the book, and here's the thing: this book is really good (we'll get to that I promise) and it didn't need this. It felt like it was trying too hard somehow and I hate that right when I was deep in the nitty gritty of a brilliant story, the graphic descriptions of somebody getting their teeth knocked out meant I had to put the book down and take a minute. Honestly: I couldn't read it. Right when I wanted to be lost in it, I ended up a little disconnected and it's such a shame. However - however - I totally get that this is entirely down to my own personal tastes because some people might not even flinch.

That aside though: this is a brilliant book. So so close to 5 of those Goodreads stars.

It's clever and unique and the plot is tight as a spring. So so well plotted you don't even know. If you've read the Aiden Waits books by Joseph Knox (and if you haven't get on that once you've read this) then you'll know exactly what I mean, and you'll love this book too. Intricate, tightly wound, dark but also darkly witty and somehow more than your average crime fiction novel.

There are characters that you care about (and a couple on the periphery that you don't) and the way the whole thing unfolds is up there with some of the best thrillers I've read. I loved the whole amnesia side of things, and Boone's disconnect from who she was before is so so well done that even though she's a bit of a dick about it sometimes (and I'm sorry: she is, to her son especially.) you can't help but really really feel for her. She's stubborn and driven and focussed and I love that. It's such a fascinating character study and the way Nolan has managed to pull that off, this look at amnesia and how it impacts a person, alongside this really excellent thriller, well it's quite the feat and I applaud him.

It's really interesting how Boone struggles to make the emotional connections we take for granted too. Even with Tess, and Roo who are only really her friends after, she still doesn't seem to have the....I don't know, the concern perhaps, that we have: she's so hellbent on what she wants that she doesn't seem aware of how that will impact those around her and I just....she's a really interesting character for being so much less than perfect.

It's a tense book also, it never lets up and I swear I turned those pages so fast, with things that I'm still thinking about now, a week later. Like Roo. Oh Roo, how I love you. The book switches and turns and you think you've got it only to realise you haven't got it and it really gets under your skin and whilst the case is solved, Boone's problems aren't so the ending is kind of bittersweet and I loved it: I loved that everything isn't tied up in a little ow and handed to us nicely. Because neither is life, you know?

This is such a strong debut and I cannot wait to see what Dominic Nolan does next.

Past Life is out RIGHT NOW. Go.