BLOOD ORANGE - by Harriet Tyce

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Published: March 2019 - Wildfire.
Genres: Adult / thriller / mystery / contemporary.
Pages: 336.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong language / substance abuse / explicit sex scenes / rape / mild gore / violence.
Format: ARC Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Jonathan Ball SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise - she's just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems...

Alison drinks too much. She's neglecting her family. And she's having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle. 

Alison's client doesn't deny that she stabbed her husband - she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

But someone knows Alison's secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she's done, and who won't stop until she's lost everything....

The best thing about this thriller is how utterly compulsive it is. I finished it in two days (it's a 336 page book) and it never dragged. I was never bored. It's so easy to read, and the foreboding hints are enough to probe you onto the next page, then the next, then the next. The subject matter is heavy, but you'll get through it fast.

My very unpopular opinion (you just need to glance at the Goodreads reviews to know how popular this book is) is that the plot is underwhelming. But I think I've managed to nail down the reason: the author either gives too much away throughout the story, or she doesn't give enough. None of the "shocking twists" took me by surprise, and I think that's because the author hinted too much at what was to come (it could also be that I've read The Girl on the Train and both endings are very similar). Personally, the so-called clues dropped throughout the plot were glaringly obvious - I could see right through them and to what was coming.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are the aspects of the twists I didn't see coming, and yet they still didn't come as a surprise. The reason? They weren't hinted at enough, nor were they developed. If Tyce had been more careful with what clues she dropped and how and where she dropped them, things could have tied together in a shocking finale. Instead, she dumps obvious clues about some aspects and then doesn't drop enough clues of other aspects - ones that needed more fleshing out. It all requires re-structuring to make the mystery and secrets impactful.

Does this even make sense?! It's hard to explain.  

Just one more night. Then I'll end it.
I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.
I'm watching you. I know what you're doing. 

The characters are unexceptional. They're characters we've seen before (the abusive, hot-shot businessman, the lost wife struggling to pull her life together, the accusatory husband who is more than he seems) or at least they're characters who are nothing new in the thriller scene today. Even with these uninspired personas, they could have become three-dimensional if they'd had vivid quirks, interesting attributes, and we'd seen their backstories and histories. Instead, we get none of that. And thus they fall flat. 

I did love the legal and courtroom subplots. The author herself was a criminal barrister, and it's obvious she knows exactly what she's talking about. I loved seeing how the whole system worked and how the cases were handled - it's compelling, and it's in-depth. There's nothing better than a well-researched - better yet, personally experienced - story.  

Blood Orange is an engrossing, darkly sexual domestic noir. If the characters were three-dimensional and the mystery better developed, then it would be an outstanding novel. 

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