Title – Blood Orange
Author – Harriet Tyce
Published – Feb 2019
Genre – Crime fiction
This is one of the few review copies I’ve picked up this year (good news for my TBR), one of the books I picked up at the Headline New Voices event in Bristol.
I’ve categorised it as ‘crime fiction’ but it’s a gripping mix of domestic noir and legal, and unusually for me I read it in just one day.
Alison is one of those women who seem to be commonplace in crime fiction at present – a woman who appears to have it all (career, husband, daughter, illicit boyfriend) but treats it all quite carelessly. A self-destructive barrister, she realises that she drinks too much but despite swearing off the booze and being given her first murder case she fails to get her excesses under control.
The murder case isn’t the main plot but provides an interesting additional thread. The case means working with her boyfriend, a man who treats her abhorrently but seems to be another vice that she can’t give up. They are to defend an alleged murderer, Miranda, who is accused of stabbing her husband to death while he slept. Initially there seems to be little doubt that the accused woman murdered her husband but as they prise the details of their relationship out of her it becomes clear that the relationship was an abusive one, and Alison begins to see some similarities between Miranda’s experience and her own.
Against the backdrop of the case Alison’s home life begins to deteriorate and neither her husband nor her boyfriend seem to have a positive influence on her. She is frustrating when you know that she is making a bad decision (there are a lot) or she gets herself into an unpleasant situation (there are some real ‘eww’ moments) but there is something about her that makes you want to stick with her despite the frustration.
As is often the case where the main character is drinking too much they and those around them all become unreliable narrators and this gives an underlying tension to the plot and to all Alison’s interactions. She perhaps doesn’t realise that people around her are untrustworthy but the reader certainly sees the possibility, even if it isn’t the case.
As Alison’s relationships fail her domestic issues reach a climax and the case against Miranda heads to court. Things didn’t pan out as I expected which I was pleasantly surprised by but they do take a dark turn.
I’m not a fan of books where you’re supposed to dislike the main character but there is something about Alison, perhaps a vulnerability that the writer has given her, that made me want to not only stick with the book but also made me want to root for her. I can’t say that this was an enjoyable read but it did have me gripped. Many thanks to the publisher for the review copy.