Reckless | R.J. McBrien

Crime is a genre I always enjoy. So what if it’s predictable, full of clichés and often a hundred pages longer than necessary, its fun and I’m here for it. I pride myself on being able to predict endings, even of the books I’m not reading (my husband hates me). What I don’t always love about crime are the formulaic characters, especially the “perfectly imperfect” leads, the beautiful women and the hunky, but broken ex army male cop/investigator. So when I read the synopsis of “Reckless” I was instantly interested. An older woman, bored in her marriage turns to an agency for discreet sexual liaisons. What could possibly go wrong? I couldn’t wait to find out.

Kirsten, our protagonist, is in her 40’s, married and has a teenage daughter. She works for the NHS as an occupational therapist and her life, while comfortable and nice, lacks any excitement or spontaneity . Her sex life is of particular concern. Mark, her husband, is a teacher and bike rider, ergo, an especially vanilla character, and Kirsten’s attempts at resuscitating boudoir antics results in humiliation. Their teenage daughter is at critical juncture in her life, exam season looms and she desperately wants to get into medical school. Other characters in the book include Helen, Kirsten’s sister, a successful Lawyer embittered by her own recent divorce and mysterious old school friend, Dianne, who Kirsten meets at a school reunion, and who introduces our protagonist to “a discreet agency which arranges casual sex for people just like them, people who want to keep their marriages but also scratch an itch”

The story is told in the first person narrative so we see Kirsten as a more holistic character, her inner dialogue as well as her outer expressions, and how infrequently the two marry. She’s not necessarily a likable lead, but she is certainly relatable on many levels. Her frustrations with her husband and marriage, her relationship with her teenage daughter and her desire to want more with her life, whilst also holding on to the things that she knows she should be grateful for. And here lies what I found specifically interesting about the book. The exploration of desires verses morality and the idea of being “grateful” especially as a woman, at the expense of our own happiness.

Kirsten confesses to feeling invisible as a women of a certain age, regardless she has desires and the need to explore them is further understood with the use of flashbacks in the book. These help the reader to understand, if not agree, with her pursuit of the agency and her longing to be seen and wanted. I really appreciated the pace of the book and all the little details, notably after I finished reading it, as I was able to appreciate what the author was building up to. It’s not the kind of crime book where something is constantly happening and your kept on the edge of your seat, running from one part of town to the other, its a slow burner, but in my opinion that worked to its credit. That’s not to say it isn’t engaging, I couldn’t put it down as I wanted to know what it was building up too. There are also police crime reports periodically placed at the beginning of chapters, and the story starts with Kirsten at the back of a patrol car with snippets of her interview/questioning throughout the book, giving the reader some additional information in order to conduct our own investigation.

When reading this book I was convinced R. J. McBrien was a woman. Although this is his debut novel he has experience of writing for TV shows with credits for Wallander, Merlin and Spooks. He has also written his own shows for the BBC, The Debt, and for ITV, Trust. I have to confess I haven’t seen any of these, but the book is certainly written like a BBC drama, you can feel something building in the background but your not sure if its just your over active imagination or actually something.

I really enjoyed reading this debut crime book. Personally I didn’t find it to be overly sexually charged and describing it as “erotic” is a bit of a stretch, (those marketing folks!) however, don’t let that put you off, there is some sex in it, but at its core it is a solid crime novel that will keep you engaged and entertained, and maybe like me, you’ll be surprised by the ending. At 435 pages I think it might be a little longer than similar books in the genre, but this is definitely a book about the details, so I felt it was perfectly paced.

Reckless is published by Wellbeck Fiction Limited and is out o the 22nd of July 2021.

Thank you Sofia at Midas Publications for sending me a copy of this book.

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