About The Book
Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.
All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.
Heath is a serial killer.
As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.
Gabriel is the serial killer.
Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?
We are being spoiled by great crime writing set in Australia and New Zealand at the moment; Jane Harper, Chris Hammer and Vanda Symon are all killing it with their quite frankly brilliant books, and now, another piece of Australian crime fiction has come along. 55 by James Delargy is a compelling and clever piece of writing which kept me gripped and unable to put down.
Although the author isn’t Australian he has lived there and he writes the town of Wilbrook and the surrounding area incredibly well. This book has a wonderful sense of place with this small, remote town leaping from the pages. Set both in the present day and in 2002 James Delargy writes a landscape that is both expansive and treacherous. This world building is reminiscent of Jane Harper and in particular The Lost Man where the location is so vast that you can’t really get a grip on just how large it is.
In 55 we have an intriguing and clever plot. Chandler Jenkins is the Police Sergeant at Wilbrook a small, sleepy town until one day a man named Gabriel enters the police station and says he has been kept captive by a man named Heath who wanted to make him his 55th victim. He has managed to escape and is disturbed and agitated by his traumatic experience, but when another man arrives at the station saying that he is Heath and that Gabriel wanted to kill him and make him his 55th victim, Chandler realises he has something very, very big on his hands. This case is too large for his limited resources so a team is sent to help, headed up by Inspector Mitch Andrews.
Chandler and Mitch were childhood friends but something happened to cause a schism in their relationship. It is through the flashbacks to 2002, whilst Mitch and Chandler were involved for the hunt for a missing man, that we come to understand what happened between them. The gradual erosion of what was a very close friendship is laid bare and set against the backdrop of an increasingly difficult search in the scrubland increases the tension in the present day. Mitch’s ascension to Inspector is something that he lords over Police Sergeant Chandler and the power-play, asides and exclusionary tactics are brilliantly written. James Delargy has really tapped into that feeling of not being ‘enough’ and the awkwardness of being in the vicinity of somebody you were once close to. It is a great contrast to the power-play between Heath and Gabriel and these four men are trapped in a battle of wits with one of them always being one step ahead.
The plot though is the star of the show. It is intriguing and well-crafted with misdirection and red herrings sitting alongside clues and hints. Playing Gabriel and Heath off against each other means that we never quite know who to trust. Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Are they working together? For a debut novel this is incredibly accomplished writing and expert plotting. One of the joys of reading a crime book is trying to solve the mystery but I was as frustrated as Chandler and Mitch and had to relent and let James Delargy take control. Great pacing means that we are able to get to grips with the plot, get to know the characters and understand the complexities but are kept on the edge of our seat as we hurtle towards the denouement.
This book comes highly recommended from me. I was transported to the searing heat of Australia and to this landscape which holds secrets and resentments. It is a great novel of quiet power which uses its superb characterisation to explore a myriad of themes. It more than holds it own against Jane Harper et al and is a clever and considered crime book with a killer mystery. Great stuff.
About The Author
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates his diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel, which has been sold in 19 countries so far and optioned for film by Zucker Productions in partnership with Prodigy Pictures.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours and Simon & Schuster for an invitation to join the Blog Tour. Make sure you check out the other stops!