It’s too easy to summarise the protagonist of this hard-boiled contemporary thriller as a smart, sassy, sexy, kick-ass young woman. Angela McGlynn is all of those things, but she’s much more than the stereotypical crime-thriller heroine. The author has created a complex lead character who happens to be a self-assured, completely competent female. McGlynn is highly intelligent and massively motivated, a skilled martial artist who is also well-versed in the ways of the dark web. She’s a PI and a vigilante; a friend to few and wary of complications. She’s forthright, direct and unafraid of choosing a difficult course of action and then carrying it through, no matter how tough the consequences.
In short, Angela McGlynn would normally be described as ‘the female Jack Reacher’ or ‘the female Jack Ryan’. That’s selling her short. She’s her own woman, not some cardboard cut-out, or a confection of masculine characteristics masquerading as a girlie heroine to titillate a mainly male audience. She’s my kinda girl, in fact, and I was delighted to meet her in this rapid and rewarding thriller.
Author Eden Sharp writes with crisp fluency and considerable skill. She doesn’t over-explain or saturate the text in dense description, which means the reader is expected to pay attention, to join the dots as the action bounces between three or four intertwined plotlines. There’s plenty of action and no small amount of violence. McGlynn walks on the wild side, not in a sanitised Hollywood cops-n-robbers world but in the neo-noir reality of pimps and manipulators, abusers and brutes. There are few people she trusts and that’s with good reason.
So don’t come to this if you like frothy chick-lit cosy crime novels. Do pick it up if you enjoy the bleak and the bitter worlds of writers like Andrew Vachss or Derek Raymond. In fact, McGlynn most reminds me (sorry, I said I wasn’t going to do this, but…) of Burke from the Vachss series. An outsider. An avenger. A dangerous person prepared to do very bad things for the right reasons.
The supporting characters in The Breaks are fascinating too, as are the occasional forays into philosophy. McGlynn is a moral person, but not necessarily a nice one. She has a good line in crisp, witty dialogue, too.
There were some parts of The Breaks which were slightly less successful. There’s a complicated drugs bust going on in the background which involves a lot of characters, and they seemed rather less well defined so I struggled to keep track of them. There’s a big cliff-hanger scene where McGlynn is in one of those impossible situations of mortal peril… and while I’m pleased she thought her way out of it (and didn’t have to rely on the male lead coming to her rescue), her solution did have the sense of a MacGuffin being pulled out of a hat.
There are also moments where she’s just a little bit too good to be true – where it’s obvious this is a made-up person. That criticism can be levelled at almost every action-adventure crime-thriller hero or heroine, so McGlynn is in extremely good company. It’s just that in the very best crime novels you start to believe that maybe this person could be real… as with The Sergeant in Raymond’s Factory series. That would be something to aim for in future novels, maybe.
I’m definitely ready for the next McGlynn investigation, that’s for sure. Tense, absorbing, intelligent and fulfilling. Just what I want from great crime fiction.