Whew, just closed the last page of this debut mystery thriller and am still trying to recover.
Sarah Calhoun, a Sydney divorced mum of three is living her life, arguing with her children, making the school lunches and working. She gets along with her ex-husband and negotiating their family life in two separate households. Along comes a detective who pops into her life digging up her past, a past in Ireland when she worked as a youth worker during the nineties.
The detective wants her to testify against a man who has become a leader of the IRA, and he is not about to let her forget the terrifying past when she dodged bullets and grenades. To complicate matters she sixteen-year-old son has won a trip to play soccer in Ireland.
That same IRA leader finds her whereabouts and threatening her family, he directs her to return to Ireland. Trusting no-one, she reluctantly turns to her estranged father for help. Having no choice she and her father leave Australia, leaving her two daughters in the care of her ex. The detective assures her safety and her father protects her son but she doesn’t reckon on what the IRA leader will do to her.
This debut novel is simply astounding. It sets a cracking pace of tension and edge-of-your-seat page-turning action. I found myself screaming (in my head of course) for Sarah not to make the decisions and action she chose. But having no idea what else she should do, you just know you’d probably do the same to save and protect your children no matter what the cost.
Cairns has captured the very essence of the mother lion in all of us and thankfully, is very rarely tested in the circumstances that Sarah faces. Yes, there’s some violence, a lot of tension and even a bit of romance. It’s well-written and there’s a lot to learn about the battles between Protestants and Catholics during the 1990’s. It’s also about resilience and learning to trust.
If this one isn’t a movie soon, then it really should be. Calling all movie producers! Get this one made. Move over Jack Reacher for Sarah Calhoun. In the meantime, go out, buy this one and prepare to read it quickly.