Just Haven’t Met You Yet Review: A Funny Take On A Love Story That Even Romance Skeptics Will Adore

In general, I’m not a huge fan of romantic fiction. I don’t even really like rom-com films or TV shows- they’re easy to watch but they usually lack any real substance.

So I was intrigued when I received a copy of Just Haven’t Met You Yet. In essence, the plot sounds like that of a typical cheesy rom-com: girl loses her suitcase on a solo work trip, and sees the contents and realises that she might just love the guy who owns it.

However, from the moment I picked the book up, I knew this wasn’t your typical cheap holiday read. Author Sophie Cousens already has one knockout bestselling book under her belt, and she’s got extensive experience working in TV and producing amazing reality TV series. The writing is top-notch from the very first sentence, and as you get further into the novel, you realise that the plot isn’t as simple and obvious as you might think.

The novel revolves around a woman named Laura, who works for a website in London called Love Life. She runs the site’s ‘How They Met’ video segment, where couples tell cute tales about how they met and got together. During a meeting, she suggests a story about her parents’ love story, which is cute. Her mum found half of an old coin, and set off to Jersey to find the second half. When she got there, she met the son of the woman who had the other half and fell head over heals in love.

With both her parents now dead, Laura only has a few mementos, including the coin and a selection of photos of their time on Jersey, to remember them by. Her editor is excited about the prospect and arranges a short-notice work trip for Laura to go to Jersey alone and write a feature on the island and its romantic scenery.

Laura heads off to the island for a long weekend trip with just hand luggage. As the airplane is full, the airline asks Laura and anyone else with a wheeled suitcase to put it in the hold. In her rush to grab her bag in Jersey, Laura picks up the wrong case. When she opens the bag, she finds that it contains everything that she thinks a man ought to have, such as a copy of her father’s favourite novel, warm jumpers and more.

As she searches for missing suitcase man, who could very well also be Mr Right, Laura encounters a host of eccentric locals, including a morose cab driver and his dad, a randy elderly beekeeper and more. Each of them has their own story to tell, and as Laura gets potentially closer to meeting the love of her life, she learns that not everything is as it seems when it comes to her parents’ picture perfect Jersey love story. While meeting long-lost relatives, Laura gets thrown for a loop by the revelations that they provide and the new information they give her could permanently change her views on love and romance.

Cousens creates relatable and engaging characters, who make you want to keep reading just to find out more about them. At times the plot feels like a predictable romantic comedy, but then the author throws the reader a curveball that keeps you on your toes. She repeatedly breaks the fourth wall in a way by having Laura remind the reader of what would happen if she were in a romantic novel or film, which is intriguing and unique. It sets the novel apart from the rest of the predictable romantic fiction that I’ve read in the past, and I’ve read a fair few of these when I’ve been on holiday and ran out of decent books to read. When faced with a limited selection of books from a hotel lobby or holiday home bookshelf, I often find that romantic books are the best of a bad bunch, and gravitate to them, but I’ve never read anything quite like Just Haven’t Met You Yet.

I think what I like most about this novel is how much I can relate to it. That won’t be the case for everyone- there are a lot of coincidences in my case, but the novel and its characters are very realistic and I think that many people could find something to relate to. For me, there’s a lot- firstly, Laura is 29 and a writer who’s a bit rudderless- I am the same age, have the same profession and have no idea what on earth I’m doing with my life!

Then there’s Love Life, the online magazine that Laura works for. It’s run by an editor called Suki, who is the archetype of a typical dreadful magazine editor, and someone who I have tried to be the opposite of as a manager. I have met and worked for my fair share of Suki’s in the past- editors who demean and bully their staff, dismiss their ideas without even hearing them, put all the blame on their employees when things get rough but grab all the credit if things go right.

That’s pretty much every past boss I’ve had in writing until I got my current job, and hit the boss jackpot with a really kind and supportive person. However, I don’t think I know a single writer who’ve not worked for someone who’s almost exactly like Suki. Her incessant nagging and rudeness, as well as her attitude towards her staff, is precisely why so many publishers have such a high turnover of staff.

I also enjoy the fact that the novel is about more than just Laura’s search for love. Cousens also infuses the book with unusual life lessons and teachings from unlikely characters, such as an elderly couple who are having an affair to get through the torment of a dementia diagnosis. The writer shares a selection of lessons, but the biggest one is that you can either take them or not- you do you. That’s refreshingly un-preachy from a book full of proverbs and snippets from a fictional self-help text that the protagonist is reading- another example of the writer playing with the form.

To conclude, I think that Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a fun, intelligent version of the classic rom-com. It’s a cut above the rest, and worth checking out even if you’re not usually a fan of romantic fiction. Cousen’s experience as a screenwriter shines through and gives the novel an edge that most romantic books simply don’t have. I really enjoyed it and found it hard to put down, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t usually a fan of sentimental books about romance and family histories, so this one must be bloody good.

The Primary Objective Review: A Promising Political Thriller Missing A Few Teeth

Political thrillers, when done well, are the perfect escapist literary. As a far of political thrillers who’s in need of an escape, I was looking forward to checking out Martin Venning’s new novel The Primary Objective.

Primarily set in a small village on the border between Iran and Azerbaijan, the novel charts the work of Peace International, a fictional charity organisation dedicated to providing reconciliation and mediation support to governments and military factions around the world.

Led by London-based Operations Director Edwin Wilson and a mysterious insurgent named only as ‘Dave’, a small team is put together from international experts in warfare, local tour guides, scientists and communications experts. Together, they infiltrate the small town of Ibrahim Sami and work to understand how the region is becoming so prosperous and what the military base on the outskirts of town is doing.

During the initial reconnaissance, the team from Peace International find out that the base is being managed in tandem with the Chinese military. Slowly, the team uncovers a lot of information about skulduggery that could threaten to destabilise the region and cause untold harm to millions. There’s a lot at stake, and the team has to work hard to understand the issues they face and to work together to stop threats that are coming in from all sides.

The novel switches between the perspective of the team and other players in the drama that unfolds. These include a young shipping magnate who is being used to provide logistics support for an underground organisation and a local man who is supporting Peace International’s work but is deeply concerned about his father’s involvement with the military in his hometown.

By switching through a variety of different perspectives and by moving around the world, Venning keeps the reader interested. From the dismal streets of London to the wilds of small town Iran and the hustle and bustle of Tehran, the plot traverses the globe and means that there’s never any shortage of action and adventure. As such, the novel lives up to its name- everyone’s ‘Primary Objective’ is different, so we see a variety of perspectives.

While this does serve to keep the reader entertained and the plot moving forward, the author’s constant chopping and changing does make The Primary Objective harder to follow than it needs to be. Also, as each chapter is from a different character’s perspective, and in some cases, the perspective switches even within paragraphs, readers aren’t able to get attached to any one character or storyline.

Instead, we’re constantly seeing the action from a different point of view. This approach does serve to ensure that the reader is never bored when reading this book, but it also makes the action less engaging. With so many characters involved, and with the reader seeing the story from the perspective of almost all of them, it’s hard to get attached to anyone or to care about their fate.

Also, Venning uses a lot of info dumping in his novel; where loads of information is foisted on the reader through a lengthy explanation or piece of explanatory dialogue, rather than being integrated naturally throughout the story. Inserting long explanations makes the text feel very dense and less enjoyable to read, although Venning makes up for that issue with his fast-paced plot and by moving the action around a lot.

As for the characters, while there are too many, and the reader isn’t able to get too attached to them thanks to the almost constantly switching perspectives, they are still intriguing and well crafted. Each character is believable and relatable in some way, even the very unique military individuals that most people don’t encounter on a day-to-day basis.

The character backstories are often dumped on the reader haphazardly, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t slowly become invested in their fates as the novel progresses. Many of the characters give long, rambling depictions of their lives and what has happened to them, but as the action gets more exhilarating and the plot thickens we still get excited to see their fates.

Ultimately, I enjoyed The Primary Objective, but the novel is far from perfect. In the future, I’d be interested in reading some more from Martin Venning, and seeing if his coming works rectify some of the issues I found with this exciting yet somewhat confusing book.

Serpentine Review: A Cold Case That Becomes A Contemporary Crime Caper

Having enjoyed The Museum Of Desire when I reviewed it last year, I was excited to check out the latest Jonathan Kellerman novel Serpentine.

Kellerman brings back his gruff, burly LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis and psychologist Dr Alex Delaware, who join forces once again when Milo has a very cold case foisted upon him by the higher ups.

He’s unwilling to take on the case, which is more than 35 years old, but he and Alex go to meet a wealthy and influential young businesswoman who has used her connections to wangle herself a review of the case, despite it’s age and the very low probability that it’ll get solved.

From the first meeting with the women, a gym wear mogul whose mother was found shot dead in a car miles on a remote road in LA, it is clear things aren’t what they seem with this accident case. The site where the car is found is very from her home in Danville, but besides that there’s very little for the pair to go on.

From this first meeting, it’s clear that the unusual yet well-matched sleuthing duo know that they’ve got their work cut out for them. The woman has little information to go on; she only found out a few years ago from her stepfather what had happened to her mother. Her stepfather refused to tell her anything and there’s limited information out there about the case.

She only has one photo of her mother; a strange picture that shows her standing awkwardly alongside the man she’s supposedly in love with. The only possession she has left from her late mother is her necklace, made of Serpentine, which is where the novel gets its name. The jewellery isn’t something that this seemingly stylish lady would wear, but her daughter clings to it like a comfort blanket that reminds her of the mother she never knew.

With her stepfather now dead and gone, the young woman is desperately searching for answers, and she’s happy to get the help of a pair of experts, neither of whom is as happy to be taking on the case. Milo and Alex have limited information from the start- there’s not even an accurate site for where the car was torched all those years ago.

Kellerman’s characterisation is brilliant in this novel; there are some really amazing characters involved with this case as it unfolds. One of my personal favourites is the last living detective who was assigned to the case: a truly obnoxious vegan who goes by the name ‘Du’.

It’s as the pair, with a little help from Du and the Internet, delve deeper into the case, that they see that it’s not the dead end they’d originally thought it was. In fact, alongside the initial victim, there are several other unexplained and unusual deaths connected to the case. For example, the boyfriend of the murdered woman, who raised her daughter, died on a hike when he’s clearly not an man who’s accustomed to spending time outdoors.

As the case shambles on, Milo and Alex realise that there’s more to this case than meets the eye. There’s something sinister going on, and there are powerful people who don’t want the truth to see the light of day.

Much like The Museum Of Desire, Serpentine is witty and engaging. The main detective, Milo Sturgis, is reminiscent of some of the best hardboiled detectives. His supporter and fellow investigator, psychologist Alex Delaware, who’s also the novel’s narrator, is his opposite, and in a way the pair turn the traditional detective pairing on its head.

While many detective duos are headed by a cerebral detective who is aided by a strong everyman, in this case Milo is the strong, burly, ordinary bloke. Alex is the cerebral thinker of the pair, and he assists the LAPD detective by using his professional and personal knowledge to assist his more streetwise colleague.

Together, the pair works hard to solve the case. As with the previous novel, there are a couple of small issues with the plot, and it does feel a little frustrating how hard the sleuthing duo works, only to have some major for major breakthroughs in the case to drop into their laps. While luck and coincidence must, in real life, assist with some cases, with a cold case like this one, it seems highly unlikely that so much good luck would bring so many great pieces of information and fresh leads to light.

These issues are small and inconsequential, however, when you consider the excellence of this fast-paced plot. Kellerman is a master at suspense, and his excellent characterisation will keep you engaged and invested in the story throughout this witty mystery.

Overall, Serpentine is much more than just a dry old cold case story. The plot quickly transforms into a fast moving modern thriller with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing. There are plenty of mysteries associated with the cold case where the investigation begins, so there’s enough to keep you entertained and leave you with no idea what’s coming next, which is ideal for a police procedural.

The Interpreter From Java Review: A Post Colonial Masterpiece That’s Not To Be Missed

The opening sentence of The Interpreter From Java is a little over a page long, and outlines a list of horrific crimes committed by the narrator’s father, the titular interpreter, decades before.

Punctuated by commas, the sentence runs on and on, giving the reader overwhelming feelings of claustrophobia and revulsion, which quickly become a theme throughout the novel.

Written by Alfred Birney and translated into English from the original Dutch by David Doherty, The Interpreter From Java is an intriguing novel told in two halves. The first half is in-depth review of the Indonesian war for independence from Allied rule in the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an interpreter who worked with the marines, this half of the novel is intriguing and enlightening.

The other half of the novel is told from the perspective of the interpreter’s son, Alan, who writes his own story as well as interjecting into his father’s memoirs to remind him of his cruelty and mistreatment. Alan spent half his life scared witless of his father, and the other half in a children’s home facing institutional racism, sexual exploitation and more. The novel dips into each narrative, sometimes tracing large chunks of the memoirs and Alan’s life, other times flitting between the two, so the reader is captivated by the two stories at once, and the lines between the past and the present blur together.

Through this tale of family betrayal and abandonment, Birney highlights the merciless battles that plagued colonial Indonesia and its inhabitants. It also emphasises the identity issues that the children of colonial imperialists and local individuals face. Arto Nolan (he adds the d himself later), Alan’s father, is the illegitimate son of a European colonial businessman and his Chinese concubine living in Indonesia. He isn’t acknowledged by his father, yet he remains a fanatical supporter of the Dutch occupation, and eventually becomes an ‘interpreter’ for the Allied forces, acting as a cross between a local guide and a cold-blooded solider.

The section of the novel that Birney devotes Arto’s memoirs highlights the stark irony of a man who lambasts native soldiers for killing innocent people in the name of liberty, while at the same time committing equally heinous crimes in the pursuit of imperialist greed.

The author emphasises the complicated nature of the relationship that some of the region’s inhabitants had with their identities and how this impacted on colonial rule. He explains how Arto began his crusade against the Japanese invaders, then became a solider for the Allies out of his misguided belief that the Westerns were somehow more civilised, and that their violence served a higher purpose. In this regard, the author showcases the complicated politics of colonialism, and how it was branded to make those who were being invaded believe that they were actually being saved.

In the half of the novel dedicated to Alan’s depiction of life after the war, in which Arto has swapped guns and war for domestic abuse and spending his evenings typing away on an old Remington typewriter, Birney proves that these identity politics extend beyond colonialism. Alan and his brothers and sister are a partially Dutch, partially Chinese but many with darker skin and all with an incomplete understanding of their heritage. Alan describes them as ‘Indos’ at times, and at others as Dutch. He doesn’t understand his heritage, despite trips to meet his extended family on the other side of the world and his raking through his father’s memoirs in search of answers.

Every sentence of this remarkable novel is designed to grab the reader by the throat, shake them awake and keep them that way. The opening line is a continuous list, and the entire novel is an exploration of colonial crimes and the lasting harm that the various European empires caused to multiple generations. It’s not just Arto and those who lived through the occupations that were scarred; his children, and his grandchildren also suffer endure fractured identities and the mental weight that serious abuse has on children.

Overall, The Interpreter From Java is a long and arduous read, but it’s also informative, insightful and enlightening. If you’re looking to broaden your mind and learn more about the affects of Colonialism on the generations that came long after the world’s empires were demolished, then this is the book for you. It’s well worth reading for curious readers

Wildwood Review: The Perfect Pastoral Escape From The Harshness Of Reality

wildwood

Over the past few months, while I’ve been trapped in the house, I’ve been searching for escapism in the form of beautifully written books.

While the majority of the books I’ve been reading are mystery and crime fiction, I’ve also been searching for nature books that take me out of myself.

One book that I found buried under a pile of other books on my bookshelf, which I picked up months ago in a charity shop, was Wildwood. I chose it simply for the gorgeous front cover and the fact that it’s about trees.

I adore trees; they’re beautiful and majestic, and I feel like they’re under appreciated. They remind me of the power and symbolism in the natural world, so I was intrigued by the book and, as it was about 50p, I picked it up and threw it on my shelf.

With so many other books to read, and so much drama going on with the pandemic, I clean forgot about Wildwood until a few weeks ago, when I was searching for an easy, relaxing read to comfort me.

At first, I wasn’t sure about this book, but I’m glad that I carried on and read more of it, because this is a glorious read that will make you see nature, and trees in particular, in a whole new light. 

Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees, is part tree book, part autobiography, and all love affair with the great outdoors. Roger Deakin takes his readers on a journey around the world, starting from his home in the Suffolk woods.

From there, we travel alongside him as he visits Spanish horse festivals, the wilds of the Australian outback and more. Deakin paints an intimate portrait of every new landscape that he visits, making you feel like you’re actually there with him.

Thanks to his knowledge of trees, wood and the way the material works, Deakin is able to paint an evocative picture and show the reader his passion for trees and the natural world.

When he’s talking to artists and sculptures that work with wood, Deakin makes an amazing case for handmade, artisan crafts over mass-produced junk, if you ever needed one.

Between the beauty of the natural world and the majesty of the trees in it, not to mention the delicious fruit that he eats, Deakin manages to transport the reader out of their lockdown blues and into a world full of sumptuous smells, tasty treats and atmospheric landscapes.

So, while I was moping around indoors and whiling away the days, Roger Deakin was able to take me out of myself and give me a sense of belonging in a natural world that I’ve either not been to in years or, in many cases, never even experienced.

As well as talking about trees and walking readers through some of the world’s most magnificent forests, Deakin also weaves in quotes from amazing poetry and cute illustrations, which create a visual representation of each of chapter.

All in all, this isn’t just a book- Wildwood is an escape from reality into a world of nature and wonder: it’s an innovative combination of autobiography, retrospective and much more. It is rich with the author’s passion for nature, so it’s the perfect read for anyone who wants to feel calm and informed.

Three Perfect Liars Review: A Unique Thriller That Keeps You On The Edge Of Your Seat

three perfect liars

Following my previous review of Heidi Perks’ Now You See Her, which I loved, I was excited to check out her latest novel, Three Perfect Liars.

This innovative book tells the tale of three very different women and the series of events that culminates in a fire and a murder.

It begins with Laura, who is returning to work following her maternity leave to her job in an advertising agency and expecting her temporary replacement to be leaving. However, when the young woman not only remains at the company, but also retains Laura’s biggest account, she becomes suspicious of her motivation.

Switching between the perspectives of Laura, her young colleague/ rival Mia and Janie, the wife of company owner, the novel shows an overview of all of their opinions and ideas, and how their lives become intrinsically linked over the course of the story.

The story is told through a range of mediums, including interviews with staff at the advertising agency after the fire and flashbacks to the events that occurred in the lead-up to the tragic event.

A uniquely structured novel, Three Perfect Liars gives little away, and the reader doesn’t actually find out who has been murdered until it’s almost over. Instead of telling us what’s going on, Perks drives the narrative forward by slipping in small details, leaving the reader constantly clamouring for more.

Perks uses a variety of narrative structures in this book, including interviews, time jumps and intense dialogue. With these different styles of creative writing, the author is able to bring into play a variety of ideas and complications, including the role of women in society, the treatment of working mothers, and many more. They’re all introduced in a unique way, so that the reader doesn’t feel preached at, but rather that they are seeing these issues in action.

It’s this approach, combined with the tension that seeps through every chapter, which makes it so hard to put this novel down. Despite its immense heft, I still managed to finish it in less than two days, which is no mean feat when you have a full-time job, part-time blog and still want to have as much as a life as you can when you’re stuck in your home.

So, if you’re looking for an enticing, gripping thriller to get you through the lockdown, then Three Perfect Liars is an ideal choice for you. Although as mentioned above, you should be warned that you’ll get through it very quickly because you won’t be able to put it down!

The Treadstone Resurrection Review: An Enticing Addition To The Jason Bourne Series

Hood_Treadstone Resurrection (1)

As part of the blog tour for this latest action novel, today I’m reviewing The Treadstone Resurrection.

The latest in the Jason Bourne universe is a heart-stopping, thrill-packed ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It’s obvious from the very first sentence that author Joshua Hood has extensive experience in the military. He understands guns, fights, military weaponry, codes, the CIA and more.

This experience and knowledge is what really sets this book apart from other military thrillers you’ll see in bookshops throughout the summer. They’re a quick read staple, something you can enjoy without having to put much effort in.

The Treadstone Resurrection introduces a new character: Adam Hayes, a witty, battered and bruised former asset turned carpenter who’s trying to turn his life around when his past comes back to kill him.

After he receives a mysterious email from an old friend containing encrypted photos, Hayes is rapidly drawn into a sinister international plot.

He quickly has to leave his new life as a contractor and abandon his plans to visit his family to face his enemies and battle against some of the world’s best military agencies.

With his friend dead, Hayes has to rely on his wits, ingenuity and waning international contacts to fight back and get justice. His journey takes him across the USA and into the wilds of South America, where he battles against deadly foes with far better equipment, teams and plans than he has.

The novel is gripping from start to finish, and Hood has expertly created an engaging replacement for Jason Bourne in the form of Adam Hayes. He’s a smart, wisecracking hard man with the potential to go far.

The only thing I have a serious problem with is the depiction of women in this novel. Hood’s female characters are just pouting, opening extra buttons on their blouses in response to hot guys, or sobbing at the first sign of trouble. Either way, it’s clear that the author hasn’t actually met that many real women. His female characters are a male fantasy, and in today’s action genre, where women read just as many novels as men, this simply isn’t acceptable.

Despite this, I actually enjoyed reading The Treadstone Resurrection. It’s a gripping thriller that might be a little formulaic at times, but for the most part delivers the kind of gritty, deep drama readers of the Jason Bourne series are looking for. The novel sets itself up for a sequel, which I’m looking forward to; I only hope that this time they’ll be more realistic female characters in it.

A Death In Mayfair Review: Another Incredible Addition To A Phenomenal Historical Crime Series

a death in mayfair

As long-time readers of my blog will be aware, I’m a big fan of Mark Ellis’ Frank Merlin series, which began with Stalin’s Gold, continued with Prince’s Gate, and moved on to Merlin At War, which is where we pick up from in the latest part of the saga, A Death In Mayfair.

Set slightly later in the Second World War, Ellis’ latest novel touches on Pearl Harbour, the cinema scene at the time and London’s gangs, who emerged during the Blitz and become key players in the city’s criminal underworld.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of historical crime fiction. Or at least I wasn’t, until I read Mark Ellis’ books.

Ever since I’ve come to look out for crime fiction novels set during the Second World War, although I’ve never found any other writer who can hold a candle to him in terms of characterisation, recreating war torn London and generally just keeping me hooked until the very end.

As such, I was excited to read this latest novel and find out what’s in store for Merlin and London, which plays as a big a role as any character in Ellis’ work.

We return to the tales of Frank Merlin, Scotland Yard’s finest, right after he becomes a father for the first time with his new wife, whom we’ve already met as his girlfriend in previous books.

Sonia and the baby are out of London visiting her parents, so readers get the Detective Chief Inspector all to ourselves. He’s just nabbed a couple of heavies from an important gang in a raid, but his good luck is interrupted when the powers that be order him to investigate the death of film star Laura Curzon.

This beautiful starlet had just returned from Hollywood when she fell to her death from the balcony of her flat. Merlin is ordered by on high to investigate, whilst also dealing with the corpse of a mystery young girl found in a bombed building who was strangled before being preserved in the ruins of the property.

The two cases quickly become connected, and in the course of his investigations Merlin and his team encounter everything from corrupt Hollywood bigwigs through to child prostitution, black mass and beyond.

Somehow, despite all of those interlinking ideas and various plot strands, Ellis masterfully keeps A Death In Mayfair’s readers hooked throughout. The plot moves at a quick pace, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep up with everything that’s going on.

One of the main reasons for this is Ellis’ exceptional characterisation, which is once again the defining feature of his work. Each character has been meticulously defined, but without dumping info on the reader all at once. Somehow you just connect with the characters, and that’s a rare achievement for a writer.

The only issue I have is with the dialogue, which in places is patchy. Other than that, the novel is enlightening and fascinating, showing readers a unique glimpse into war torn London at a time when relations in Asia and closer to home, in Germany, were strained and when Britain was blighted by rationing and other social problems.

It’s also a thrilling police procedural, with Merlin and his ever-intrepid team working doggedly to uncover several mysteries, all of which quickly intertwine to become one big tangle of criminality, debt, drugs and general debauchery.

To summarise, if you’re looking for an enticing novel to get you through the bleakness of the end of an English winter, then look no further than A Death In Mayfair. Mark Ellis has once again created an intriguing mystery that will have you hooked.

 

 

Proximity Review: A Tantalising Thriller About The Terrors of Technology

Proximity Blog Tour Banner (amended 27 May) (002)

Personally, I’ve long thought that Jem Tugwell was an awesome writer. I interviewed him previously and was so taken by his idea I requested an early view of his at-the-time unfinished novel, Proximity.

The novel’s plot was one of such a uniquely original and fascinating idea that I just knew it would be a hit. Jem is a skilled writer and I could see at once that this was a truly creative, original idea that was in capable hands.

The premise is a simple one: in the future, people are embedded with technology that tracks where they are and what they do. As such, crimes are pretty much gone, as anything that happens can be tracked and the culprits apprehended.

In Proximity, everyone is accountable for their actions, and every aspect of their lives, from the food they consume through to the transport they take, is logged and controlled in the interested of benefiting society as a whole. After all, with fewer substance abuse, weight and exercise based health issues and less crime, costs will be reduced for the taxpayer, which is at least how Jem’s fictional society justifies its innovative new approach to government.

As a result, civil liberty is sacrificed for the good of society, as everyone’s thoughts and feelings are downloaded onto software embedded in their minds. Jem worked for more than two decades in the software development market, but he manages to perfectly combine expert technical insight with great storytelling to create a book that is equally fascinating and accessible.

Soon into the novel this causes trouble, with a crime coming in under the radar and forcing the now pretty much superfluous police force to put their thinking caps on. When things get personal and more murders are committed, the team is left to uncover the truth behind who could’ve both committed the crimes and tampered with the technology to cover it up.

Throughout the novel, the author’s eye for detail and exceptional characterisation drive readers towards the nail-biting conclusion. Everything, from the tightly wound plot to the tense dialogue, is designed to keep the reader hooked, and it works. You won’t be able to put Proximity down, and you’ll be happy about it.

So, in conclusion, when Proximity becomes the bestseller it deserves to be and Jem Tugwell is the name everyone’s talking about, just remember, you heard it here first.