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Tuesday, 17 May 2016

‘The Turning Tide’ by Brooke Magnanti

Published by Orion,
25 February 2016.I
SBN: 978-1-4091-0085-0 (TPB)

There’s a rather cynical theory that one way to become a bestselling novelist is to become famous (or preferably notorious!) in another way first. Brooke Magnanti may not be a familiar name – but how about Belle de Jour?

Yes, the renowned call girl blogger and inspiration for a prime-time TV show has reinvented herself as a crime writer. Though the reinvention wasn’t much of a stretch; she was a highly trained forensic scientist before she took up an alternative career, and the blog and subsequent memoirs in book form showed she could tell a good tale.

The Turning Tide is certainly a good tale, with plenty of tangled threads, a large cast of sharply drawn characters and a background – actually several backgrounds – that speak loudly of thorough research or detailed knowledge.

The main narrative thread focuses on Erykah MacDonald, ace rower, talented codebreaker and puzzle fan, who is about to leave her loser husband when he suddenly produces a jackpot-winning lottery ticket. But things aren’t quite as they appear, and Erykah finds herself mixed up with shady politicians, an elaborate scam with huge implications, a couple of surprisingly articulate heavies and a lot of media attention.

The action shifts smoothly between a dismal Scottish town, the House of Commons, a commercial radio station and suburban London as the various characters’ stories gradually unfold and link up. Erykah has already grown as a person and reinvented her whole life before the narrative begins; now forces beyond her control mean she does it again, and slowly takes command of the situation – well, up to a point. She is pretty powerless to prevent the rising body count, but she does get to the bottom of the mystery of the first body, discovered in a sports bag on a remote island shore; and she does do her best to ensure only the guilty get their comeuppance.

The story rattles along for the most part, with an occasional slow-down so the author can explore her own areas of expertise: rowing, forensic pathology and complicated puzzles –  though I should point out that there’s hardly a mention of sex. There’s plenty of action and some incisive comment on the political machine, and the characters, especially Erykah herself, are engaging and complex. Brooke Magnanti shows herself to be a lot more than a one-trick pony, and I expect to see a lot more of her in this guise.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Brooke Magnanti is a scientist and author. She is writer of the bestselling Belle de Jour series of books, which were adpated into the hit ITV show Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper. She is also the writer of The Sex Myth and columnist for the Telegraph newspaper.
Brooke was born in west central Florida in 1975. She was a National Merit Scholar and received a B.Sc. from Florida State University in 1996, where she studied in the Anthropology and Mathematics departments. She later studied for a master's in Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Sheffield in England, and earned a Ph.D. in the Forensic Pathology department there, specialising in human decomposition and postmortem identification. She has worked in forensic science, epidemiology, chemoinformatics and cancer research. Brooke currently lives in rural NW Scotland with her husband.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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