1. ”We are actually authors who decided to start up a publishing house, so we’ll publish pretty much anything.”
2. ”Well, we publish what we like to read. Unfortunately, nobody else wants to read it.”
and then there’s the third, more elusive group:
3. ”We may not be well known, but we DO know what we’re doing.”
Case in point here would be the magnificent capture of Anne Brooke’s Thorn In The Flesh, originally a print release by Goldenford Publishers in the UK and released in electronic format by Bristlecone Pine Press. It’s a novel of depth, character study and a fence-straddler between literary fiction and mystery.
The plot is actually pretty basic. Kate Harris is a lecturer at a university in England, and the victim of a home invasion that results in her being raped by an unknown assailant. Kate’s attempt to come to grips with what has happened to her leads her to start investigating the case herself. Along her inquiries, she’s forced to open a veritable Pandora’s box of issues from her past, including putting her son up for adoption, her attraction to her best friend (a woman named Nicky) and her need to figure out what is happening in her life. It only makes matters worse that her attacker continues to send her threatening letters, informing her that more trouble is on the way.
Thankfully, Brooke chooses not to take her character on a mission that eventually turns her into a Thelma and Louise or Jennifer Lopez in Enough character in which she pumps a bunch of iron, grabs a gun and goes after everyone who ever wronged her. Smartly, Brooke leads Kate through the emotional rollercoaster aftermath that one would expect after having something terrible happen. Kate has her ups where she feels she can go on and everything will be fine, then crashes and wonders what she’s going to do next. Kate in one moment heads to London to find the son she gave up for adoption, and in another has her climbing into bed weeping, wondering how she can go on. By allowing Kate to react in a normal fashion, rather than as a stereotype of woman-comes-into-her-own, the character becomes infinitely more believable and enduring.
Even Brooke’s supporting characters are amazingly fleshed-out, all with their own nuances and character flaws. Kate has an attraction to her friend Nicky, who is dealing with issues of her own in her marriage. Nicky’s husband David is finding himself lost between trying to provide for the family, while being everything a husband and father can be and at the same time being secretly jealous of the relationship between Kate and Nicky. These other two characters bring an extra element to the story, without ever making the novel feel as if they were thrown in for window dressing.
There is a subplot to this novel that I won’t go into here, only because it would pretty much give away much of the mystery aspect of the story. To be honest, there isn’t much of a secret here as to who Kate’s attacker turns out to be, and Brooke reveals it pretty early on in the story. There is a showdown in the final chapters that is mostly satisfying, especially in the fact that this isn’t your typical ending where the victim is immensely triumphant. Everyone loses something in the end in this novel, and at the same time all of the characters gain new insight into themselves and the world around them.
It’s hard to throw this work into a particular genre, as it encompasses so many: Mystery, Literary Fiction, Lesbian Fiction to name a few. With the incredibly fluid writing style of Brooke, however, this work should be primarily labelled (in my opinion) as a work of Literary Fiction, on par with some of the greatest writers of our time. The ebook is virtually flawless, it’s engaging and immersive. An impressive work all-around.
FINAL VERDICT: Eread? Indeed! Buy a copy at top speed. More from this author, we need.