British author Eva Dolan has been on the radar for readers of high-quality and socially conscious crime fiction for some years now. Her Zigic and Ferreira series became known for targeting bones of contention in contemporary society, such as racism, human trafficking, and disability. In the past year, she has been working on a stand-alone novel, This is How it Ends (out Raven Press, 25th January 2018), and I was lucky to have one of the early review copies sent to me.
The premise of This is How it Ends is really good: Young Ella Riordan has joined the protest groups in London trying to fight gentrification and the expulsion of the working class from the city due to speculation. But, during a party thrown after the success of her crowdfunding campaign to tell these people’s stories in a book she is authoring, she kills a man who has tried to rape her in one of the abandoned flats in the abandoned building they are celebrating. Ella panics and she calls Maggie, an older activist who has taken young Ella under her wing and has helped her navigate the anonymous organisations and groups who are fighting for people’s rights. Maggie does not think about it twice and with the help of Ella, they throw the man’s corpse through the lift shaft. With the building being almost abandoned and all the people in the party, no one will find the man. Or will they?
As you can see, This is How it Ends has a very promising start. I was totally into the story, especially after reading about Ella’s middle-upper class past and her father being a chief of police. The novel is told from Maggie’s and Ella’s point of view both in the past and the present after the killing, and even though Maggie’s past was very interesting, I was enthralled by Ella because there was something different about her. So, a hundred pages or so into the novel, I thought something did not click, but the narrative got caught up in the present and it moved too slowly for my taste. I wanted to know more about Ella, but I did not know why. She was a young writer, beautiful, a rebel, and she was the socially conscious version of Instagram famous.
After having the book around for two weeks and barely reading any pages, I decided to do something different. As I knew there was something off with Ella, I decided to skip some pages to see if she was playing with me or if I had a problem with the book. I have to say, even though plot-wise I found This is How it Ends too slow for my taste, I did not see the big plot twist coming. And it was fantastic. Once I read it I was finally able to keep reading until the surprising end of the story.
This is How It Ends is a typically British thriller, not really recommended for those looking for a thrilling and fast-paced story. Dolan takes her time to build complex characters representative of their times and different life experiences in contemporary London. However, if you are looking for socially conscious crime fiction, I would rather send you in the direction of her Zigic and Ferreira series, true page-turning procedurals.