Review: Frantic by Katherine Howell

Wednesday 26 August 2015
Title: Frantic
Author: Katherine Howell
Publisher: Pan
Publication Date: 23rd November 2010
Pages: 372
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
There are worse things than death, though Paramedic Sophie Phillips doesn't think so. She and her work partner constantly revise a list of the worst ways to die, holding the number 1 spot vacant for the death so terrible even they can't imagine it. But Sophie is sure it will cross her path on the streets of Sydney one day.

When Sophie's police officer husband Chris is shot and their baby is kidnapped, Detective Ella Marconi has to fight to get to the truth. Is it revenge by a bereaved father for Sophie's recent failure to save his wife and newborn baby? Or was Chris somehow involved in the police corruption that appears rife in the city?

When the police fail to trace Sophie's son, she takes matters into her own hands and now that she's realised there are worse things than death, nothing will stop her from finding him.

I found Katherine Howell's books when searching for crime fiction set in Australia, and now that I am focusing on my 'own' books rather than review ones, I think I'll be reading the whole series very soon as Frantic was a really enjoyable read and it left me with that excited feeling I usually get when I know there's more books in the series waiting to be read.

One of the main characters in the story is Sophie Phillips, who is a paramedic. This for me added a new dynamic to the story as normally in crime fiction paramedics are barely mentioned, perhaps at a scene there might be a fleeting appearance but for one to take centre stage is something I have never seen done before, and Katherine Howell's experiences as a paramedic herself give the story some authenticity. We really get an insight into how Sophie's role affects her mentally and also in her home life and as we meet her and her partner for the first time, we learn more about them and it really sets the scene for what's to come later in the story.

Sophie's husband is a police officer, and when he is shot and their baby kidnapped it falls to Detective Ella Marconi to find out the truth. Sophie recently failed to save a woman and her newborn baby, and the woman's husband has already been vocal and threatening about this failure. Or could it be Chris that is at fault, perhaps he is involved in the police corruption that appears rife in Sydney? It's difficult to discuss the story too much but I am a fan of red herrings and they feature aplenty in Frantic because I completely failed to work a couple of things out. Sophie is an intriguing character and one that I changed my mind about numerous times. The disappearance of children always makes for quite a hard-hitting book and it is a powerful read in places.

Detective Ella Marconi is another brilliant character and as I always say, I have a soft spot for female detectives and Ella is very well-drawn, with issues and problems all of her own. She's a likeable character and one that I am looking forward to meeting again. Frantic though is very much the story of Sophie and Chris and the real highlight for me was in the book's final section which was extremely intense and had me guessing right up until the very end about how things would ultimately conclude.  Frantic is written at a pace that means you won't put the book down all that often and so if this is on your TBR I say clear an afternoon, sit down and enjoy. The setting of a book is important to me and I could easily visualise Sydney whilst reading this book written by somebody who clearly knows the area. I can't wait to read more from Katherine Howell.

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