In April, I had the pleasure to read 55, the gripping novel by James Delargy. The story of kidnapping and murder so twisted and dark, set in the Australian wilderness, this novel caught my complete attention, so it’s my absoulute pleasure to share again my review to celebrate the publication of the paperback edition.
Publication: 4th April 2019 – Simon & Schuster UK
Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?
Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.
All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers – he was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim. Heath is a serial killer.
As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55. Gabriel is the serial killer.
Police Sergant Chandler Jenkins needs to find out who is telling the truth – and quick. is He is forced to call in Mitch, his former partner and now insufferable superior, a partnership which dissolved in acrimony years earlier. Can Mitch and Chandler uncover the truth, before the 55th victim is taken?
James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer.
In the last few months I have been reading quite a few books set in the Australian outback (mostly thanks to Jane Harper) and I have to admit that I find it fascinating, unforgiving, and mysterious. Because of its isolation, its vastness, its hot and dry weather, the outback is very dangerous and so the perfect setting for a twisty thriller like 55.
James Delargy takes us to Wilbrook, a remote town in Western Australia where the protagonist of the novel, Chandler Jenkins was born, raised, and he still lives with his family. He is the chief of police of this town where nothing much ever happens until, one day, Gabriel stumbles in his station. He is covered in blood and he describes how he was kidnapped and tied up by a man called Heath, who told him he was going to be his victim number 55, before he managed to escape. This shocking revelation becomes even more twisty and astonishing when Heath is captured and claims to be himself Gabriel’s victim. Heath and Gabriel relate the same identical story, word for word, so who is telling the truth? Who is the real killer? Who is the real victim? For Chandler is not easy to figure out the truth, especially when he has to asks for the help of his former partner, Mitch.
I found myself completely engrossed in this novel. The characters are very well-crafted and intriguing and I liked the protagonist, Chandler. His dedication to his job make him a really good sergeant, but we also see him struggle with the guilt he feels for neglecting his two young children, his resentment towards his ex-wife, and his conflicted feelings towards his ex-partner and now boss, Mitch. Thanks to flashbacks from the past we see more about Chandler and Mitch’s partnership. Something happened between them that caused a drift between them, but now they are reunited and determined to solve the case, Mitch looking for the glory while Chandler for the truth.
The plot is very well-written, intense, atmospheric, and sinister, with such a jaw-dropping and unpredictable ending that took me completely by surprise and that will stay with me for a while. With a brilliant, compelling, and masterfully-plotted debut, James Delargy is definitely an author to keep on your reading list.
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates his diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel, which has been sold in 19 countries so far and optioned for film by Zucker Productions in partnership with Prodigy Pictures.