** This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. **
Andrew Pringle’s twin brother has always been on a fast track to success but now he’s in trouble. Andrew, a wildlife photographer from South Africa, owes Christopher a lot and is determined to pay his debt. But when his brother is murdered shortly after Andrew arrives in Australia, he finds himself at loggerheads with the police investigating the case.
Determined to find out what sort of trouble Christopher was in, Andrew discovers that the twin he’s always admired had a dark secret that has been exploited throughout the police and the judiciary.
As they search for the cause of his brother’s death, Andrew and his newfound girlfriend become targets of an organisation so powerful that it can kill and torture at will.
When I first started Gavel, I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it because crime fiction is not usually my thing. The first couple of chapters were interesting but not enough to totally hook me (I’ll explain why in a bit). But as I kept reading, my interest level piqued and the further I got into the story, the more involved I became. About halfway through, the book grabbed me and didn’t let go, and I had to postpone important things like sleep so I could find out what happened.
The plot takes many unexpected turns and could — in less adept hands — seem implausible. But the story is told in a way that had me completely believing each twist and turn, and had me outraged at the atrocities committed by people within Australia’s government and police force. At one point in the story, I literally gasped with shock (if you’ve read it, I’ll bet you know which scene I’m referring to). For fear of spoilers, I’ll say only this — if you have a weak stomach, this book is not for you.
The main character Andrew is well drawn and relatable. He endures a lot during this book and I found his reactions to be believable and realistic. He’s likeable and brave but also flawed — a real person, not a fictional hero.
Karen, Andrew’s love interest, is also believable. She’s a strong, independent woman and it’s refreshing to read a book where both characters in a relationship are equal.
In fact, all of the ‘goodies’ in the book are well written, it was the ‘baddies’ I had trouble with, and this is the reason I was less inspired with the book in the beginning. It’s not so much that the ‘baddies’ aren’t believable, it’s more that there were a lot of them and I felt too much detail was given about each of them as individuals. My personal reading preferences probably influenced this – I prefer the first person perspective, which is used for most of Gavel, but the chapters that let you behind enemy lines are told in third person. This made it harder for me to engage with these segments on a personal level. I also felt that these chapters gave me information I didn’t need to know, and that the plot could have been even more compelling if I hadn’t known some of the details revealed in these segments until later.
This was a not a big issue though and didn’t dramatically affect my overall enjoyment of the book. And I haven’t even told you about one of my favourite parts of the book yet – the setting. Perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t enjoyed crime fiction much in the past is that I haven’t been able to connect with the setting. But Gavel is set in South East Queensland, where I’ve lived my entire life. I loved reading about all of these horrendous acts taking place in my backyard, in places I could imagine clearly, and being reported in my local paper. Not only that, South East Queensland is a fantastic location for fiction of all types – it’s so diverse and beautiful. Call me biased, but I totally believe it.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ian Wynne’s Gavel and can’t wait to see what he writes next.