“Dead woman walking” has unique and disturbing early chapters that I’m sure I’ll remember for a long time. And by the way, that long time will NEVER include me getting in a hot air balloon!
Jessica Lane, a policewoman, takes her sister Isabel, a Carmelite nun for a hot air balloon ride to celebrate her sister’s 40th birthday. As they marvel at the views and the balloon’s pilot takes them low to appreciate them more fully, Jessica witnesses a crime on the ground beneath them. The perpetrator of the crime realizes his crime was seen so he takes his rifle and shoots at the balloon’s pilot – killing him. Pilot-less, the hapless passengers endure tense and excruciating moments before the balloon plummets to the ground…
As they collectively panic, they attempt to use their cell phones to send word to the authorities of their impending disaster, but alas, there is little to no signal in the Northumberland National Park.
“Against all odds, one woman had walked away from the crash.
Somewhere out there, she was still walking.”
This story is told from various points of view. We have the lone woman survivor of the balloon disaster, the policeman investigating the balloon crash, and the evil man who Jessica watched attacking a woman on the ground.
“Smart girl. He liked hunting the smart ones.”
This criminal man is Patrick Faa. He is a psychopath who seems to have little to no regard for human life. He intentionally shot the pilot of the balloon and wants to kill all the occupants to preserve himself from witnesses to his crime. He goes to the crash scene and murders any of those who miraculously survived the crash. He collects all their cell phones – just in case they had any incriminating photos or text messages on them. We learn of Patrick Faa’s family – Travellers/Romanis who are under the rule of his mother, their matriarch.
Narrrowly escaping the eagle eyes of Patrick Faa, the survivor is dazed, frightened, traumatized, and injured. She finds herself on St. Cuthbert’s Way. She walks…
“Maybe the crash had killed her too. Maybe she was on borrowed time, a dead woman walking, oblivious to the clock relentlessly ticking away her last remaining minutes.”
The policeman is Ajax Maldonado, a Detective Chief Inspector with the Northumberland Constabulary. We learn a little of his personal life and his relationship with a fellow police officer whose nickname is Mojo. We learn of the police side of the balloon crash investigation and the police search for the missing survivor, Jessica Lane.
Also, the time-line goes back and forth from the present day, to the days immediately preceding the crash, and also, back to the early life of the two sisters, Jessica and Isabel. We visit them around the time that Isabel joined the Carmelite nuns, much to Jessica’s disapproval. It seemed that Isabel was trying to escape life, or something that happened, and she chose to join a silent, hard-working order of nuns.
We learn that in the weeks prior to the balloon crash, policewoman Jessica Lane was working to uncover a people trafficking ring who had links to unethical organ transplants.
Then we read about a ‘yellow house’. A house where illegal immigrants are housed in unsavory and squalid conditions. A house they are all fearful of…
“Dead woman walking” is Sharon Bolton at her very best. She has incorporated a relevant modern issue into her plot with some unscrupulous criminals. She has spiced up the narrative with several twists/surprises, and she has blended various time lines and points of view in such a way that the narrative was not at all confusing.
My main gripe is that after reading this novel I could have kicked myself! I realized that all throughout the book the author had hinted at various aspects of the plot and I didn’t grasp them until AFTER finishing the book! Shame on me. Sharon Bolton has written this novel with clever use of plot and characterization that led me, the reader, to assume certain things that were so incorrect. You believe want SHE wants you to believe. Outstanding!
Sharon (formerly S.J.) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer. She is the author of the bestselling Lacey Flint series, as well as a number of stand-alone thrillers.
Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.