Fifty Fifty: A remarkably introspective thriller

Fifty fifty Book review

What is this about?: Continuing pretty much straight on from the first in this series, Harry is trying to prove her brother Sam’s innocence when she punches out a prosecutor and gets sent out to an outback town to cool off while his trial continues. Thankfully she has her partners Whitt and Tox, who will pretty much do anything for her in their own way picking up the slack and determined to prove Sam’s innocence. Meanwhile, someone wants to kill all 75 people of the town she’s in, and has in fact already started…

What else is this about?: Harry. Who is she? What is she afraid of? Answer to the latter at least in part is: herself.

Stars: 4/5

Blurb: It’s not easy being a good detective – when your brother’s a serial killer.

Sam Blue stands accused of the brutal murders of three young students, their bodies dumped near the Georges River. Only one person believes he is innocent: his sister, Detective Harriet Blue. And she’s determined to prove it.

Except she’s now been banished to the outback town of Last Chance Valley (population 75), where a diary found on the roadside outlines a shocking plan – the massacre of the entire town. And the first death, shortly after Harry’s arrival, suggests the clock is already ticking.

Meanwhile, back in Sydney, a young woman holds the key to crack Sam’s case wide open.

If only she could escape the madman holding her hostage…

Fifty Fifty opens with a bang, or rather a punch heard and seen around Australia: the sister of notorious accused serial killer Sam Blue punches out his (loud mouth asshole) prosecutor. Though the loud mouth asshole part doesn’t go public as much as Harry’s punch.

Out of sight out of mind and out of messing with her brother’s defence

Harry is sent to Last Chance Valley to cool down and not you know, spend time in jail for punching out a prosecutor. She goes, only because she’s certain she’ll be back in 10 days at Sam’s side. Interestingly, while she’s gone, Tox, the partner heard but not seen in book one takes on the mantle of proving Sam’s innocence, along with Whitt, her partner in the mining town in book 1. Yup, he’s moved to Sydney.

What follows is a back and forth between Harry and this pair in Sydney as they investigate – which is actually a better choice than you’d think because we get to understand them without Harry as a filter.

But, Harry. She’s sent to Last Chance because a diary was found: the kind that makes you expect mass shootings, bombings and terrorism in big blinking letters. This is what one of her partners assigned to the case in the town thinks – a guy who thinks everything comes back to terrorism. Which is probably why he’s working for ASIO finding terrorists. Except, he’s so blinkered he can’t see beyond that – not even when Harry and Vicky (the only cop in town) point out a couple of pertinent details in that regard.

Nope, it’s terrorism he insists.

Which is when Harry punches him in the nose in a knock down, bare knuckle fight.

She wins.

Which brings us to another part of Harry: violence seems to run in her blood and her past, and knowing what Sam stands accused of forces her to consider parts of herself and behaviour she hasn’t closely considered in a long time, if ever.

She recognises the violence in herself, which leads her to wonder about Sam,  before she shies away from that. She cannot conceive that the brother she grew up with is capable of such violence, and she holds fast to the memory of that guy, helping Tox and Whitt where she can.

That said, the 75 person Last Chance Valley town is an interesting microcosm of the world today and how easy it is to blame the ones that don’t fit in for things that go wrong. It’s blinding and people aren’t willing to see past that, to the truths that will leave them uncomfortable.

Which is actually a good point to keep in mind about Sam too.

Tox and Whitt and Sam Blue

Sam is faceless in a way , shaped by Harry, Tox and Whitt more than anything for me. Harry believes in his innocence, in the brother she loves and with whom she survived a drug addicted mother and the foster care system. She’s given some of that to Tox and Whitt, but in this book and this case, a little bit of her gloss on her brother starts to come off for them. There are clues that don’t quite make sense, and two students – one who had a near escape being kidnapped and another who did actually get kidnapped that throw doubt on his story. Through it all Sam stays strong and as the case progresses it becomes clear that as odd a couple as Tox and Whitt are, they are in fact devoted in their own way and for their own reasons to Harry Blue.

Theirs is an interesting dynamic, with Tox more like Harry than I thought possible, whereas Whitt is the one with a little bit of perspective and a lack of a desire to punch people out. A handy attribute to have when these two are his partners.

There’s also an undercurrent in this book of how our youth shapes our present, and our lives as adults. Can we grow past who we once were? 

The book itself is an exercise in fantastic pacing, with my heart beating faster and breath getting shorter as the quick chapters flicked between Last Chance Valley and Sydney, with Tox and Whitt. Fox and Patterson have created a marvellous character and plot in Harry Blue and this book, without falling into some familiar expectations I had of the ending. In their second book, they have reset their heroine, showing everyone that they aren’t afraid to keep readers on their toes in unexpected ways.

Harry Blue is a fantastic addition to the halls of great female (Australia) detectives, and I cannot wait to see what’s next for her!

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