August 2019

Danuta Kot - Life Ruins

"This is literary crime fiction at its very best."

A body, briefly glimpsed at the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft, vanished when the police investigate. Jared, recovering from almost fatal injury and addicted to painkillers, knows he saw something terrible in that mine ... but he has no evidence, and fears he is losing his grip on reality.

A girl is attacked so savagely she can't be identified, and dumped late at night in an isolated campground. She's alive, but only just. Becca, tossed out of university and just let go from her dead-end job, is certain she knows who the victim is. But no-one will believe her.

Kay, recently widowed and coming to terms with life on her own, suddenly finds herself forced to get involved. For years she and her husband fostered difficult children - including Becca, whom trouble follows like a stray puppy. And now Becca seems to be in the worst trouble of her life.

And then Jared and Becca meet. Becca, strong-minded and independent, is confident they can figure out what is going on. She pulls Kay into the mix, knowing they'll need all the help they can get - because the police don't believe them. And more girls are vanishing.

'Life Ruins' is a sumptuously written novel with depth and heart. It's a strong character driven story with three mis-matched people coming together for a joint cause.

Danuta Kot writes with a unique fluidity. Her descriptions of the East Yorkshire coast landscape are beautiful and haunting, mesmerising, atmospheric and dangerous. She can imply so many emotions into one paragraph to unsettle the reader. This is literary crime fiction at its very best.

The characters of Kay, Becca and Jared are richly drawn. They all have their flaws and faults but that's what makes them all the more believable and relatable. Nobody is perfect, and they've all been shaped by their life experiences. It's this level of detail that draws you into the story and go on this dark journey with them.

Many themes are touched upon in this book; grief, addiction, loss, abandonment, and the affects they have on the individual. This is not a fast-paced read, and it is better for not being one. It's subtle and hauntingly beautiful. It reminds me of a favourite film you like to watch on a Sunday afternoon. 'Life Ruins' is a novel to savour and Danuta Kot is a writer of immense talent.

Reviewed by: M.W.

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