Review: Prisoner by S.R. White


Title: Prisoner

Author: S.R. White

Published: 31st August 2021, Headline

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

From ex-UK police officer now Queensland resident S.R. White, comes Prisoner, his second novel to feature Detective Dana Russo.

When the body of Curtis Monroe is found brutally murdered on the edge of a swamp barely twenty four hours after his release from prison, Detective Dana Russo and her team find they have more than one avenue of investigation. Having served just six years of a nine year sentence for rape, it’s possible revenge is a motive for the grisly killing, or perhaps it’s punishment for a jailhouse transgression, and Monroe’s crucification a warning. Sisters, Suzanne and Marika Doyle, seem to be the least likely suspects, but the proximity of their home to the crime scene, and their recent contact with the victim, stirs curiousity in Russo.

Unfolding over a period of 36 hours, Russo leads an investigation that considers multiple targets, methodically assessing the clues and evidence the team gathers. Creating a plausible narrative from the information they develop proves more difficult than they expect however, and it’s the gaps that take on significance as the case deepens. White’s intricate plotting is impressive as the team patiently works to expose the dark truth behind the crime. ‘Why’ is ultimately a much more stunning proposition than ‘who’.

I enjoy being privy to the procedures of the investigation, though White admits he takes some liberty with a particular law the team utilise. Each member of the squad has a specific role in the case, but they also function as a cohesive unit. In Prisoner, station head, Bill, is away at a conference and Russo feels the pressure of his absence, especially as internal politics rear their head. Russo is a skilful interrogator whose methods are somewhat unusual but effective. Guided in large part by intuition, the process is emotionally taxing for her, particularly when she draws on her own traumatic past to affect a breakthrough. Fellow detective, Mike, and administrative assistant, Lucy, are wonderful returning characters, while newcomer Ali, struggles to fit in. Glimpses of the team’s personal lives, including a somewhat surprising developing romantic relationship, adds depth to the story.

A clever, finely crafted work of crime fiction, Prisoner is an absorbing read, and I look forward to seeing how the series develops.


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Review: Hermit by S.R. White


Title: Hermit

Author: S.R. White

Published: 25th August 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia


My Thoughts:

Hermit is a gripping crime fiction debut from ex UK police officer, now Queensland resident, S.R. White.

In the early hours of the morning, Detective Dana Russo is called to the scene of a murder. A suspect is already in custody, having been found standing over the body, but other than offering his name and declining the services of a lawyer, the man, Nathan Whittler, is reluctant to talk. While her team does their due diligence investigating alternate possibilities, Dana has twelve hours to get a statement from Nathan that she hopes will close the case.

Set in rural Australia, most of the action in Hermit takes place within a police interrogation room as Dana carefully coaxes information from a reticent Nathan. It results in a series of tense and unusual exchanges between the two as a tentative rapport develops, despite their nominally adversarial relationship.

Nathan is nothing like Dana expects as he confesses he has not spoken to another person in fifteen years. He has, the police learn, lived alone and off the grid in the surrounding bushland since walking away from his family and job in 1994. Sensitive to the possibility of past trauma, and Nathan’s obvious emotional fragility, Dana must tread lightly as she probes for information that will explain his disappearance, and what role he may have in the murder.

The give and take of the interview is finely crafted by White, and we learn as much about Dana as we do Nathan. When the novel opens, Dana is contemplating suicide, privately reminiscing on the anniversary of a past trauma, and as the interrogation progresses some of the details of that experience are revealed. At times Dana struggles to maintain professional distance, grappling with the reminders of her own tragic childhood, torn between her empathy for Nathan, and her role as his interrogator.

Dana’s colleagues provide some relief from the intensity of the scenes between her and Nathan. I enjoyed the banter with her unit, particularly Administration assistant Lucy and fellow detective Mike, who both obviously like and respect Dana, as does her boss, Bill. As Dana moves in and out of the interview room, they are kept busy investigating both Nathan’s past, as well as the life of the dead man – running down the possibility of his wife’s involvement in the murder, and a suspected connection to organised crime.

With its riveting narrative, and intriguing characters, I found Hermit to be an engrossing read. There are a few minor threads of the story that White leaves unresolved, which is mildly irritating, though I assume, and hope, the author has plans for a sequel.


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