SR White’s debut novel Hermit was a real sleeper for me. It lured me in and had me intrigued before throwing in some huge twists. Someone I follow on social media said his next novel Prisoner, also featuring cop Dana Russo, was their favourite book this year, so I went in with high expectations.
Which, in retrospect wasn’t entirely fair as I kept thinking I’d again be blown away by ridiculously inexplicable reveals at the end. He does…. and I suspect they are mind-blowing, but less-so when you’ve been waiting for them.
That said, White crafts the this plot cleverly. I kept wondering why suspects were being questioned in a certain manner. My notes (in multiple places!) indicate that it didn’t make sense. I mean, I’m an avid consumer of crime fiction and television… (;-) ) so I know how suspects or witnesses should be questioned and… It. Did. Not. Seem. Right.
Until of course we’re offered up the ‘why’ and then Dana (and White’s) approach makes more sense.Prisoner
by S.R. White
Published by Headline
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
When a man is found savagely 'crucified' amidst a murky swamp in northern Australia, detective Dana Russo and her team are called to a shocking scene. The victim is a convicted rapist, just released from prison, who years earlier committed an atrocious crime yards from where he was killed.
Who murdered him - and why? With several potential leads, the investigation quickly becomes more complex, and sinister, than anyone imagined. And Dana realises she'll have to confront her own troubled past to understand the true motives of the killer...
In Hermit we learn a bit about Dana’s past but I’d completely forgotten any of it. It didn’t matter and ultimately White shares that information so newcomers to the series won’t suffer from not knowing. Similarly, we’re given some backstory about Lucy – admin and support officer extraordinaire – here. She features prominently though Dana’s other team members, including her contemporary Detective Mike Francis, all play key roles.
There are two investigative leads – one obviously involving payback for the victim’s initial crime of rape almost a decade ago. And then we learn Monroe did some prison drug dealing… some selling, but with added telling. The team give equal consideration to both lines of investigation though Dana is pretty sure it’s something to do with Monroe himself and the crime he committed rather than the fact he squawked on prison drug dealers.
We meet Monroe’s rape victim and it’s obvious that – years later – they’re still terribly impacted by what happened. But I was keen for more. I wondered if I missed information, some context about the rape and its location in the middle of nowhere – where he’s now found. Monroe didn’t seem to have any prior history of sexual violence and seems horrified by his actions, so I kept waiting for another shoe to drop – mistakes made in the original investigation or similar. Something…. more.
I mention earlier the approach White uses for Dana’s interviews of sisters Suzanne and Marika Doyle. We learn they’ve offered to take Monroe in for a short period after his release on parole. There’s no link between the sisters and Monroe until they started writing to him two years earlier, so their interest in him – or involvement in his death – seems inexplicable.
Dana however, recognises a fraught history and spends time questioning them about their childhood and mother… not mentioning why they’re being held in custody (ie. dead man who arrived at their place the day before) until later in the interrogations. It seemed weird. I wondered why she wouldn’t seek information from them; but later it all makes sense. (I was however, thrown and slightly frustrated for a while!)
White gives us our curveballs. Why the sisters became involved with Monroe at all, and of course we get to the murder itself.
Had I not had heightened expectations I would have been contented with what unfolds, but I was waiting for something more. Something even less expected… which of course isn’t fair and more about me than the book itself.
That said, this is an intriguing read. It’s paced well with details of Monroe and the sisters eked out of the course of the story. And there’s an interesting theme around family responsibility bubbling away in the background. It’s impacting on Lucy in the present and is something that has defined Suzanne and Marika’s lives.
Prisoner by SR White was published in Australia by Hachette and is currently available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.