Unforgiven is the third book I’ve read by Australian author Sarah Barrie and she always delivers intriguing thrillers with complex and often-flawed characters. Unforgiven is certainly my favourite of hers so far as I found myself invested in the fate of the lead characters and intrigued by the unfolding plot.
I’ve commented on the settings of her other books, but though she also demonstrates her incredible ability to give readers a sense of ‘place’ particularly in the beginning when one of our characters is trying to work out where to ditch a body, this book focuses less on the where and more on the fast-paced what.Unforgiven
by Sarah Barrie
Series: Lexi Winter #1
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
Lexi Winter is tough, street-smart and has stood on her own two feet since childhood, when she was a victim of notorious paedophile the Spider. All she cares about now is a roof over her head and her long-term relationship with Johnny Walker. She isn't particular about who she sleeps with ... as long as they pay before leaving.
Lexi is also an ace hacker, tracking and entrapping local paedophiles and reporting them to the cops. When she finds a particularly dangerous paedophile who the police can't touch, she decides to gather enough evidence to put him away. Instead, she's a witness to his death ...
Detective Inspector Rachael Langley is the cop who cracked the Spider case, 18 years earlier - but failed to protect one of his victims. Now a man claiming to be the real Spider is emulating his murderous acts, and Rachael is under pressure from government, media and her police colleagues. Did she get it wrong all those years ago, or is this killer is a copycat?
I adored lead character Lexi. Our introduction to her is a little confronting as we first meet her when she’s (ahem) pleasuring a client while working as an escort before drowning her sorrows in JD* (Jack Daniels whiskey presumably). And as the prologue introduced us to someone with a predilection for heavy drinking – namely JD – with a body in the trunk (boot) of her car, we wonder what we’ve gotten into (or if Lexi’s repertoire knows no bounds!). But… all is not as it seems.
Lexi is obviously the quintessential flawed character, though we learn why and realise there’s a lot more to her than the persona she portrays to the world. We also spend some time with her sister Bailee, a psychologist or therapist working with abused children / child protection.
And then there’s Detective Inspector Rachael Langley, lauded for solving the ‘Spider’ nearly two decades earlier… involving online child pornography as well as ‘snuff’ films. So… big trigger alert re child sexual abuse here.
After the documentary featuring her old victory airs, Rachael receives a call telling her she’s got it wrong. She’s positive she didn’t but when a young girl’s body is found with almost identical MO to the cases of the past she forms a team to investigate the new murder and potential re-emergence of the pedophile ring.
Which of course is where Lexi comes in, as she’s already hot on the trail of the same group and well-versed in tracking down its members.
As the guilt of the original ‘Spider’ is questioned, Rachael’s credibility flails and her confidence wanes. I probably engaged more with Lexi, but we also spend a lot of time with Rachael who’s having a clandestine affair with her boss (though not because either is married but because workplace romances are frowned-upon) and is close to her nephew Finn… a detective on her team.
The plot is twisty and Barrie throws a surprise in towards the end (that she masks well). And though there’s some justice, we’re not offered complete closure – which was fine with me as I’m keen to meet this fabulous cast of characters again.
Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie will be published in Australia by Harper Collins (HQ Fiction) and available from 1 December 2021.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* As an aside, I note the blurb says Johnny Walker and as a non scotch or whiskey (or whatevs) drinker I’m not sure if they’re the same thing or if it changed part way through the process.