Rachel Watts is a new city transplant: ex-country, now-sad, missing the wide open fields and cosy memories of her old life. In this new one, she’s made friends with her neighbour, the lanky, forensically-inclined James Mycroft: smart and just the right amount of rebellious, but with a past that has left him scarred and a home life with much to be desired. Together they go out on platonic late-night low-grade shenanigans, but one night’s escapade to visit a friend sees them stumble onto his dead body instead. When it seems the police are on a single track to find the killer, they decide to look into the death themselves.
It is a touch hard to buy that teenagers can outwit police and other such professionals regarding the crime scene itself, even if those police are long-suffering single-minded ones, but once you get past that—and I did, because I was having fun—the rest of their investigation is more detective work from conversations they had, or places where they, as the dead man’s friends, are trusted more than authority figures. Their determination to fight for their friend, and the undercurrents of why they are doing so, make Every Breath is a thriller that I loved now and would have flipped for if I’d read this as a seventeen-year-old. It hits all the right notes on family angst as Rachel fights helplessly against the life change she didn’t want; it is pitched super-cool, with Rachel’s friend Mai supplying excellent t-shirts and snark; and, as a potential love-interest but definite friend, Mycroft seems real, instead of some floppy-haired puddle of sulk. He drinks too much, is insensitive and can be a total smartass, but nevertheless you are always on his side.
With one of the best finales I’ve read—literally nail-biting, let me just say—this is not for the faint-hearted, with blood and grit aplenty (I’d probably not give it to anyone younger than fifteen, but now that I’m a mother I have lost all realistic perspective so don’t take my word for it), but it’s enthusiastic and exhilarating and the characters and places feel really genuine. Melbourne really shines in this book, even if it does happen to be a blood-red reflection.