Author – J S Law
Published – 30 July 2015
Genre – Crime fiction
Tenacity is the debut crime fiction novel by J S Law (or James if you bump into him in the bar at a crime fiction festival) and one of the debuts that I have been looking forward to reading. Before entering the shady world of crime fiction writing Law had an amazing CV – including ‘Senior Engineer and Nuclear Reactor Plant Supervisor’ in the Royal Navy Submarine Service. I don’t suppose there are too many people who can say that!
With such an unusual occupation it is perhaps no surprise that, following the old adage of writing what you know, this debut features an investigation on a submarine. Law’s main character is Dan – Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, an investigator and part of the Royal Navy’s Kill (Crimes Involving Loss of Life) Team.
The book has a gripping opening and sets up some of Dan’s backstory which involved an investigation into a serial killer. For a number of reasons, some of which are only hinted at in the early chapters of the book, Dan has just returned to active duty. She is initially tasked with investigating the suicide of a submariner who was discovered hanged on nuclear submarine HMS Tenacity. It subsequently becomes clear that this may not be a straight-forward investigation as the man’s wife had been found beaten, raped and murdered not long before her husband’s suicide.
As with many books set in similar institutions, everyone is hoping for a quick solution which supports their preferred outcome, and in this case time is tight as Tenacity is about to set back out to sea. Of course Dan is more conscientious than that and insists on trying to carry out a thorough investigation, and this means spending considerable time on aboard the submarine. It’s here that this book really comes into its own. One of the joys of reading fiction is the glimpse it can offer into a world which the reader is never likely to see for themselves – and in this case it’s the claustrophobic life on a submarine. In putting Dan into this all-male environment and one where her presence isn’t welcomed, Law creates something which is dark and atmospheric (both literally and figuratively!). She’s isolated in this oppressive and toxic environment and horribly violated. Although not particularly gruesome or violent there are some scenes where Dan suffers at the hands of men which I found quite disturbing – it’s weeks since I read the book and the images have stayed with me – this is powerful writing.
In trying to reach a resolution in her investigations Dan’s backstory becomes clearer and more relevant; she’s a complex and damaged character trying to do a tough job in a man’s world. She’s a female lead who doesn’t kowtow to anyone (even when she probably should) and although she does have ‘baggage’ it’s not of the clichéd variety. Law really brings the setting alive for the reader without the need to disrupt the pace by showing off his inside knowledge.
The ending sets the reader up neatly to want to pick up the next book in the series, and I for one can’t wait! Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy. You can see other points of view at Northern Crime, Grab This Book and Liz Loves Books.