Millie Spark could kill anyone. A special effects make-up artist, her talent was to create realistic scenes of bloody violence. Then, one day, she woke up to find her lover dead in her bed.
Twenty-five years later, her sentence for murder served, Millicent is ready to give up on her broken life – until she meets troubled film student and reluctant petty thief, Jerry.
Together, they begin to discover that all was not what it seemed on that fateful night . . . and someone doesn’t want them to find out why.
I’d never come across Chris Brookmyre’s books before and the reason I requested this book on NetGalley was the blurb. Now this was a mystery I wanted to sink my teeth in.
The book opens at a chilling crime scene before Millicent, Jerry, and others around them, are introduced.
Millicent Spark, now 72, is finding it hard to adjust to life after prison. With Alistair, her only other family member, dead, she has moved in with Vivian and Carla. Though Vivian is trying to help her learn the ways of this strange new world, Millicent is simply biding her time so she can finally put an end to the tragedy that is her life. But someone is destined to change her fate yet again.
“It had been a year now but she still caught herself waiting outside doors until it belatedly struck her that she did not need permission to open them. That was what Vivian didn’t understand. What nobody seemed to understand. Just because the doors to the world had been unlocked, that didn’t mean Millicent was capable of walking through them. When you have not known it for so long, freedom could be a terrifying thing.”
Jerry is living in the halls at Uni where he is studying film and politics. Hoping to save some rent and therefore put in less shifts at work so he can actually spend time on his coursework, Jerry answers an ad for a housemate. This takes him to where Vivian, Carla and Millicent live. The avid horror film addict he is, it turns out Jerry has a lot in common with Millicent.
As the story progresses, events from the 1990’s are revisited to shed light on Millie’s life – the horror film industry built on period Roman movie sets, the glamourous soirées of the rich and famous, and competition with Hollywood – before it all went south.
While walking the corridors of a hotel at Jerry’s welcome dinner, Millicent notices a photograph displayed on the wall. One person standing in the photo does not fit with the date it was taken and Millicent begins to ask questions. Convinced there is more than what she was led to believe, she decides to defer her plans and instead, find out the truth of what really happened in 1994. Fate, and Jerry’s passion for horror films, results in him getting caught up in it.
There are a lot of movie references in the book, most of which are part of Millicent and Jerry’s banter. Their budding relationship is a key element of the story and one of the many reasons to keep you hooked. From almost the beginning you notice the dry humour peppering the narrative that actually makes you laugh out loud. Though Millicent may not be familiar with how things work today, her retorts are sharp and witty.
As Millicent and Jerry chase leads all across Europe, there is someone chasing them. Their lives, as well as of those back home, are in danger unless Millicent gets a lead on the attackers. The drama and thrill keep the suspense rolling as the mystery gets deeper, until the author pulls the killer out of a hat.
I heard this book on audio of which I am glad as there are characters of different nationalities – English, Scottish, Italian, French. I wouldn’t have been able to imitate half the accents in my head but listening to Eilidh Beaton nail every single one of them with perfection was why I added one more star to my rating.
The book ends on a high level of satisfaction in how everything is tied up and resolved. It even includes the effects of the pandemic, something I didn’t realise I’d managed to avoid reading in all the fiction I’ve flipped through the past year.
A wholesome entertainer, cleverly original and determinedly addictive, this thriller is deadly funny. Sharpen your wit and polish your humour as you experience the magic of Brookmyre’s writing.
Book 19 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟.
Available on Amazon*.
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