Review: Vendetta by Dreda Say Mitchell (5/5)

Monday 3 November 2014
A fast-paced, race-against-time thriller. Dreda is the female equivalent of Simon Kernick and Stephen Leather.

Two murders. Two different crime scenes. One killer?

Mac wakes in an smashed-up hotel room with no recollection of what has happened. With his lover's corpse in the bathroom and the evidence suggesting that he killed her, Mac is on a mission to uncover the truth and find the real killer.

But he's in a race against time with less than a day to unravel the mystery. Still reeling from a personal tragedy Mac isn't afraid of pain. Hot on his heels is tenacious Detective Inspector Rio Wray. Double-crossed and in the line of fire, Mac has to swim through a sea of lies to get to the truth.

But only Mac knows he's been living a double life. Can he be sure he doesn't have the blood of a dead woman on his hands?

Vendetta is Dreda Say Mitchell's sixth book, and her first thriller. A change in genre, despite still being crime, is a big risk for any author. Sometimes, it pays off. This is one of those times. Dreda is the female Simon Kernick in my eyes. If I had read this book not knowing the author, Kernick would have been my guess. I was actually a bit apprehensive when I heard about the change, however all apprehension vanished after the first chapter. The book starts as it means to go on. A thriller cannot start slow, and this was action packed from the word go.

Our main character Mac, a police officer working undercover, wakes up in a hotel room, his only recollection of the previous night being that he was meeting a woman called Elena. Mac finds Elena dead in the hotel bathroom, his recently fired gun on the floor and the police about to storm the hotel. Already I was hooked as Mac hurriedly tries to escape from the hotel (and he does so brilliantly, in the first of many great escapes). Mac is determined to avenge Elena's death, and keep himself alive in the process, he firmly believes he didn't kill her himself, but he has a couple of ideas about who might have done.

Dreda creates believable and realistic characters. From the beginning I was wary of Mac, wanting to believe his innocence but at the same time being on edge in case he isn't. As we learn more about his past, we discover more about what has made him the man he is today, and why a therapist is worried that he is potentially unstable. There's a generic type of character in thrillers like this but Dreda has created someone original, with a believable backstory and a job that makes certain parts of the book very exciting indeed. The fast paced nature of the book demands that the book is read in just a few sittings. It's absolutely relentless, there's a few times it slows down and lets you get your breath, but those times are few and far between.

Hunting Elena's killer is Detective Inspector Rio Wray who I absolutely loved from the minute we met her. She is not a woman you want to mess with, and has a fierce determination to get the job done and prove her doubters wrong. She's fought for her place on the force and takes no crap from anybody. She's such a brilliant character that I hope we see her again in the future. Definitely one of the best fictional detectives I've read about recently. Often thrillers can leave you a bit cold, with recycled characters and not much originality, that wasn't the case here. All the characters were brilliantly created and original, especially the bad guys.

I don't trust anybody in thrillers, even the people we are meant to. My brain is constantly working, second guessing characters and trying to spot the twists before they come. Sometimes however the storytelling is just too clever, with twists and turns aplenty Dreda has played a blinder here with twists I just didn't see coming. And as for the ending... It's not a cliffhanger as such, but more a jaw dropping moment that left me reeling. It was a fantastic ending that left me wanting more. Mac is a brilliant character I'd love to see in a book again, although whether Dreda's next book is a standalone or a sequel I'm not sure.

This book is almost perfect for a film. The role of Mac in my head was Danny Dyer, though he's been in a film called Vendetta already. As for the role of Rio Wray I have no idea who could play her, she is a rare breed. A one of a kind character and it would take one talented actress to portray this formidable detective. It's action packed with some brilliantly bloody and gruesome scenes, there's been some great British films in recent years and this could work as one of them.

I have massive respect for Dreda, for the work she does outside of writing and for being an inspiration to many people and for being such a genuine person. I'm extremely excited for her next thriller, with a publication date of November 2015 it seems such a long time away but already I can't wait. For thriller fans this isn't one to miss. Highly recommended by me.

Thanks to Hodder for the review copy via bookbridgr.

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