It’s a funny thing to read a thriller where things end exactly where you’d think you end up, yet you find yourself surprised by it. When You Are Mine by Michael Robotham left me waiting for a gut punch that never quite came, but despite that and a few other critiques, I enjoyed my time with the book over its barreling pace towards the finish.
Ambitious London constable Philomena (or “Phil”) McCarthy responds to a domestic violence call involving an honored police detective, Darren Goodall, and his battered mistress, Tempe Brown. She takes Tempe out of the apartment and into a women’s shelter. As one would expect regarding an abusive detective, the police bury the case while Philomena tries to bring Darren to justice and keep Tempe safe. But as her suspicions are aroused, Phil begins to unearth both Darren’s and Tempe’s secrets.
Both Tempe and Darren have enough dirt in their pasts to make each revelation interesting and this kept me reading well past my bedtime. These revelations, however, do not always seem to make much impact on the plot. Every extra flame the book lit under its characters made me hope that a powder keg was moments away from going off. But in the words of Marvin Martian, “Where’s the kaboom?” Threads frequently go nowhere, and not in a red herring manner either. A point is made, then quickly dropped in favor of the next big find. The rapid-pace chapters were a huge positive though, with the bite-sized portions tempting you to say “just one more chapter” before bed. I love books that give you every reason to keep reading; your meals grow cold and your eyes strain, but you just keep going.
Michael Robotham is not what I would consider a lyrical or a sophisticated prose writer. He has a utilitarian writing style, one which is acceptable in the thriller genre. But when he does tread into symbolism he can get a bit over his head, and his fumbles can be distracting. Phil’s ovaries “tingle” early in the novel, and a Clue analogy paints Professor Plum as the murder victim rather than a suspect. Some useful advice: if your ovaries are tingling, consider seeing a doctor. If you’re murdering Professor Plum in Clue, take another look through the game’s manual. These are nitpicks, however. I’ve heard writers say how difficult it is to justify every word in a novel, and these words seem like good candidates for the axe.
It’s a hesitant recommendation, but When You Are Mine is one you should check out if you’re a fan of speedy thrillers which make reading fifty pages feel like reading five. Fans of Gillian Flynn or Paula Hawkins will find a lot to love with Michael Robotham’s page-turner. It’s not the sharpest thriller I’ve read, but it’s one that kept me well engaged throughout its pages.