We’re not yet in 2023 and I already wonder if In the Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan will be one of my favourite books released in that year. It’s a debut novel that feels as if it’s written by a seasoned author. One who’s confident with their craft and characters they’ve created. In fact, I did check a couple of times to see if our lead, Detective Chief Superintendent Kat Frank had featured in previous outings.
She hasn’t but I loved that Callaghan gives us a senior, experienced and confident protagonist and one who’s a significant way through her career and life. Kat’s likeable but has baggage. She’s talented but also fallible.
In The Blink of An Eye
by Jo Callaghan
Published by Simon & Schuster
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
DCS Kat Frank knows all about loss. A widowed single mother, Kat is a cop who trusts her instincts. Picked to lead a pilot programme that has her paired with AIDE (Artificially Intelligent Detective Entity) Lock, Kat's instincts come up against Lock's logic. But when the two missing person's cold cases they are reviewing suddenly become active, Lock is the only one who can help Kat when the case gets personal.
AI versus human experience. Logic versus instinct. With lives on the line can the pair work together before someone else becomes another statistic?
Kat’s just returning to work when we meet her. We soon learn she’d cared for her dying husband. I initially suspected he was a cop who died by some nefarious means, but it’s nothing like that. Less dramatic, if you like. But of course no less tragic.
The introduction of AI into policing is an interesting concept and Callaghan offers both sides – seen through the characters’ lenses but with balance. Kat and her boss are cynical about politicians’ intention to cut resources / officers and replace them with technology not capable of nuance and intuition. Whereas the technology’s creator is distrustful of police for those very ‘human’ reasons.
I was quite fascinated by what (AIDE) Lock is able to do and think it’s a no-brainer that technology can be used to speed up research and the analysis of information and data. And as his creator explains, Lock is capable of something called ‘deep learning’ to continually adjust and improve, essentially teaching itself.
Of course in the background Kat and her team, along with Lock, are investigating cold cases. Starting with some missing persons – both Kat and Lock identifying cases they believe to be solvable. Selected through experience and instinct, and percentage of success respectively.
I was initially agog that Callaghan allows Lock to be offered up in holographic form and worried it was a bit too futuristic or unbelievable but realised it might not indeed be the case given the availability of virtual reality. It also allows that engagement between those in human form and their AI colleague in a more natural way.
This is a really clever book based on an original idea and I was fascinated. In reality the case/s (involving missing young men) took a backseat to the characters and the premise – though the crimes and their motivation are also complex and interesting. I’m endlessly interested in the human mind and behaviour which is a reason I once wanted to be a psychologist. Here we’re forced to ponder ‘how’ we make assumptions and decisions. Even Kat’s selection of her team members reflects personalities and individual traits rather than just their experience and expertise.
Callaghan also uses the investigations to showcase the stark difference that can exist between humanity and intelligence. Between understanding human nature and a dogged pursuit of logic.
I loved this book and am assuming there will be more… and cannot wait.
In the Blink of an Eye by Jo Callaghan will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster on 10 January 2023.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.