“Dead woman walking” by Sharon Bolton – Book Review

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.

Northumberland National Park scene

“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.

Carmelite nun in her cell reading

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!

I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton

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.


About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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22 Responses to “Dead woman walking” by Sharon Bolton – Book Review

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  4. hehe you couldn’t get me in a hot air balloon either and I’ve not read the book 😉 this does sound great!! Awesome review!


  5. FictionFan says:

    She tricked me too! I loved this one – there’s no-one like her when she’s on top form, and I thought she was in this one. Those nuns! 😀


    • Ha-ha yes! Those nuns! And the way Bolton described the convent. Actually all of her description in this one was on top form. I felt I was actually in the Faa’s scrapyard. And don’t get me going about the balloon ride.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. bibliobeth says:

    This looks brilliant- is this the first in a series? I need to read some Sharon Bolton, I’ve heard such great things!


  7. Cathy says:

    Great review. This is in my TBR pile, can’t wait to read it after your review. Oh, and I have no intention of ever going up in a hot air balloon 😱 😅


  8. I was less impressed by this than you, I’m afraid. I have enjoyed most of Bolton’s stand alone books but felt that the last one and this especially depended too much on last minute ‘surprises’. There was a point when she was among my favourite crime writers but I will hesitate before reading any more.


    • We can’t all love everything all the time. I appreciate your comment. I think what made this one so enjoyable for me is that the surprises were NOT really last minute as the author hinted at what she divulged all throughout the novel. I just didn’t pick up on the hints. I blame myself.


  9. Annie says:

    ❤ One of my faves this year, no doubt. What a superb mystery!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Annie. Did you pick up on the hints? I didn’t… I particularly remember about Jessica in the police station looking at the display window and noticing that the glass was smudged very high, like someone very tall was repeatedly looking at it. Also, ‘she’ was not as upset as she should have been when she witnessed her fiancee cheating on her. That’s just to name two hints…


      • Annie says:

        I did, I saw it coming from the beginning but simply because I think that’s the case every time there are sisters and it’s a thriller lol So I thought that would be the case and then I picked up on the hints haha But I still got other surprises 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Just to encourage you, I’ve been up in a hot air balloon and no one shot at us! 🙂
    It sounds like an amazing story.


  11. Completely agree with your review, this was just fantastic! And she had me fooled as well. I haven’t been able to look at a hot air balloon the same since!


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