A pulse-pounding, heart-racing ride with the faceless, homeless and forgotten – leftovers from life struggling to survive on the dangerous and desolate streets of Auckland, NewZealand – and in some cases, (perhaps very few) finding comfort and solace in numbers.
Max Grimes, our third-person POV narrator, is destitute, living rough, and prone to unexplainable blackouts. A middle-aged survivor of a recent trauma, Max’s existence is that of an empty and broken shell. With little left inside to drive him forward and keep him breathing, Max is used-up and has thrown his life away – with one remarkable exception.
Billy, a second third-person POV narrator, is an eighteen year old Fijian, a recent inductee to life on the streets, and one not totally lost to the accompanying despair. A talented graffiti artist, Billy has dreams, a vision, a life she would like to lead – and one that may, just maybe, be still viable if she could hang on a little bit longer.
Max and Billy are an unlikely pair – a bonded-unit, whose mutual care and connection offers feeble but essential solace in a setting where very little else provides any form of hope at all.
When Billy suddenly and mysteriously disappears, it is up to Max (pitiable, emaciated and still deeply in the grips of his own unmanaged PTSD) to not only raise the alarm with the not-very-interested authorities, (including, ironically, the very interesting and somewhat underplayed DS Meredith Peters, presented with her own third-person POV) but must spearhead his own campaign to find her.
Without giving the plot away (no spoilers here), the race to find and save Billy is heart-in-your-mouth stuff – the tight and tense plotting so fast-moving between harrowing POVs that the switch, in many cases, brings the reader instant relief.
A terrifying, lurching look at society’s uneven treatment of the vulnerable, this book is as hard to put down as it is hard to read in some places. As brutally frank in its exploration of power, of pain, of the forces that turn accumulated layers of hurt into rage, violence and hatred, it is equally vivid in its portrayal of the quiet wonder of compassion, of camaraderie, and the spark that keeps us deeply human.
A chilling, suspenseful and unsettling read, this is not a book you will easily forget. I’m looking forward to reading more from this talented author.
A great big thank you to @OrendaBooks for an ARC of this book. All thoughts presented are my own.