Hermit by S.R. White #bookreview

After a puzzling death in the wild bushlands of Australia, detective Dana Russo has just hours to interrogate the prime suspect – a silent, inscrutable man found at the scene of the crime, who disappeared without trace 15 years earlier.
But where has he been? Why won’t he talk? And exactly how dangerous is her? Without conclusive evidence to prove his guilt, Dana faces a desperate race against time to persuade him to speak. But as each interview spirals with fevered intensity, Dana must reckon with her own traumatic past to reveal the shocking truth…

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Hi and welcome to my review of Hermit!

Thirty-five-year-old shopkeeper Lou Cassavette is stabbed to death and a suspect is apprehended. However, Nathan Whittler is no ordinary suspect. He is strange, aloof, silent. Detective Dana Russo is the one who is supposed to crack this extremely tough nut, but at the moment of Lou’s death, Dana was actually contemplating death herself, considering the possibility that today might be the Day she eats her own gun. 

What ensues might be called a police procedural but not quite in the usual manner. There is no manhunt needed, Nathan Whittler was caught on the scene, what needs to be done right now is build a case against him, get him talking, in order to get a conviction. Who is he, what was he doing there, why did he attack the shopkeeper? He clearly had opportunity but what about motive? 

It’s Dana’s job to find out and so a large part of Hermit is her interviewing Nathan. Now this may seem less than thrilling, the word dull might even cross your mind, but let me tell you: it’s anything but. Just don’t go in expecting high-octane police action, the thrills are at a more psychological level. It reminded me the police interviews in The Fall. On the surface, not much is happening, but there’s this tension that sucks you in, that intrigues and keeps you coming back for more.

It’s crystal clear that Dana and her team won’t find the answer to who killed Lou and why without figuring out what happened fifteen years earlier. I found that premise utterly intriguing. A suspect who dropped off the face of the earth fifteen years ago. Where does one go for fifteen years? What does one do to survive, to eat, to sleep? How does one stay hidden? For fifteen bloody years! I can’t even begin to fathom that! And the story does nothing to relieve that tension and that feeling of suspense and expectation that the blurb evoked in me. As Dana digs deeper, more and more is revealed but it’s terribly slow-going. That is not to say it bored me, not at all, it just brought me to the point that I was positively jittery from the not knowing. It kept me intrigued, I just HAD TO KNOW. 

The more I read, the more I was convinced Nathan was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure he’s standoffish and perhaps a bit strange, but I just couldn’t see him committing murder, or manslaughter. Self-defence? Maybe? I could not make sense of it and it bugged me SO MUCH!

There is a distinct difference in pace between most of the story and the final seventy pages or so. That might not be to everyone’s liking, but for me it kinda made the story more realistic. It felt to me like the pace of an actual police investigation: turning a billion stones, talking to suspects, seemingly getting nowhere, until one clue leads to another, a witness is found, someone comes forward, someone talks, it all snowballs and the case is cracked wide open.

I have to admit that I do have an issue with the ending. Nathan’s story is brought to light, the murder has been solved, closure is to be had on that count and that made me one contented reader. However, throughout the novel, Dana’s story, her history and her secrets are just as important as Nathan’s. Her story is both hinted at covertly and questioned openly, and of course the story starts with her contemplating suicide and it rapidly becomes clear this is a recurrent contemplation, tied to this particular day. I was fully expecting to either get to the bottom of it, or remain in the dark completely. Instead, the author has chosen to reveal literally half of what there is to know and it left me feeling rather frustrated to be honest, because I didn’t get the closure I wanted and that feeling was somehow exacerbated by the semi-reveal. I can only hope that this means that the author wants to keep some things hidden in order to use them in a sequel. I for one would love to see more of Dana Russo!

Hermit is an accomplished debut that I enjoyed very much despite my little niggle with the ending and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. 

Huge thanks to Emily Patience at Headline for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.

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