Review: The Mourner by Susan Wilkins

Thursday, 21 May 2015
Title: The Mourner
Author: Susan Wilkins
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 21st May 2015
Pages: 600
ISBN: 9781447241447
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon
Kaz Phelps has escaped her brother and her criminal past to become an anonymous art student in Glasgow. But can life under the witness protection scheme ever give her the freedom she craves?

Banged up and brooding, Joey Phelps faces thirty years behind bars. Still, with cash and connections on the outside, can an overstretched prison system really contain him?

Helen Warner, once Kaz's lawyer and lover, is a rising star in Parliament. But has she made the kind of enemies who have no regard for the democratic process, or even the law?

Ousted from the police and paralysed by tragic personal loss, Nicci Armstrong is in danger of going under. Can a job she doesn't want with a private security firm help her to put her life back back on track?

Susan Wilkins returns with The Mourner, the follow-up to probably one of the best debuts I read in 2014, The Informant. Second novel syndrome is not a term you can apply to Susan, as if anything The Mourner was even better than The Informant and it has left me extremely excited to read more from Susan who is reinventing the grit lit genre in a very exciting and intelligent way.

The Mourner packs a lot into its five hundred plus pages, and it is of course impossible to discuss in detail but it continues the story that left many a reader reeling when they turned the final page of The Informant. Karen Phelps is living in Glasgow under the witness protection scheme after delivering the testimony that saw her brother Joey receive a thirty year prison sentence. Joey has plans, which don't include remaining in prison for very long. Meanwhile, Kaz's ex-lover and ex-lawyer Helen Warner finds herself not in hot water, but the freezing cold waters of the River Thames, her body soon being discovered. Nicci Armstrong is an ex-police officer turned PI whose firm receives a not so subtle hint that the death of Helen Warner, deemed a suicide, is in fact anything but. You can see then why it's hard to summarise.

Susan Wilkins creates characters that immediately feel real, that come to life on the page. Susan doesn't just tell you how her characters feel, instead she has you experiencing those feelings yourself as you read. Her characters are believable, flawed, sometimes relateable yet often a complete world away yet you will be with them on every step of their journey. Kaz Phelps is perhaps my most favourite, but I did have a soft spot for the broken Nicci who plays a huge role in The Mourner as our two characters develop a fierce determination to find out what really happened to Helen Warner. This series has strong female characters in a genre that often portrays them in an atypical way, often making them appear superior to males but it coming across forced or alternatively making them a doormat for males. Instead Susan's characters are strong, but with real fears, insecurities and issues.

The Mourner uses the familiar writing style of each chapter following a different character before eventually the various threads begin to converge before resulting in a rather brilliant conclusion. I learnt reading this book not to even bother guessing where Susan was going to take the story, particularly in the twists that she delivers regarding our characters. In terms of the main story arc, the mystery surrounding the death of Helen Warner, what we have is a realistic tale, one that is all too believable and one that will leave many a reader quite angry. I do love it when an author can bring real emotion out of a reader. Susan bursts right into parliament with this story, shining a light on political cover-ups, shady politicians and long-buried secrets that are about to come tumbling out giving this story real depth and substance in a genre that usually tends to stick to one arena. A further highlight is the London setting, the city becoming a character in itself and it being a brilliant playing field for everything that happens over the course of the story.

Susan Wilkins truly is an exciting author, completely surpassing any bar that similar authors may have set before her and if anything, setting the bar for those authors to come along and try to beat. I hope she is writing more books for many years to come, and I have no trouble in very highly recommending The Mourner.

5/5

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