Rina Walker may be beautiful but she is also a cold, calculating, ruthless murderer. She's fast-thinking, quick on her toes, feisty and very capable of looking after herself, even when surrounded by thugs and gangland bosses who are twice her size, but, although I could respect her self-sufficiency and survival instinct, I found it very difficult to actually like her.
That was, until I started reading the alternating chapters which go back to Rina's heartbreaking childhood and the extremely harsh conditions she grew up in. The blurb on the back of the book asks "Why would an innocent girl become a contract killer?" and the book does go a long way towards answering that question. With an alcoholic mother and a dead father, Rina has to take on the responsibilty of keeping herself, her younger brother and sister and her mother alive. Life in the slums is hard to say the least, with domestic violence, extortion, prostitution, rape and brutality all a part of normal everyday life. Some of the scenes are sickening to read and it is clear that no child could come through all of this without being broken in some way.
As a child in 1950's Britain, Rina was forced into a life of crime. Now, 20 years on, she is in Mexico on a hit by choice, but she soon finds herself embroiled in a complicated game of cat and mouse, with so much doublecrossing going on that in the end, I just couldn't keep track of who were the good guys and who were the villains. It's an adrenalin-fuelled, explosive, fast-paced read with the body count climbing as high as the Mexican temperatures. Despite having a female lead, it will appeal to readers of both sexes and I was pleased to see a softer side to Rina coming out towards the end of the novel.
When I started writing my review, I was very surprised to learn that the book is written by none other than Hugh Fraser, the actor best known for playing Captain Hastings in Poirot and the Duke of Wellington in Sharpe. This is his debut novel and I'd love to read more from him, maybe following further adventures of Rina. She appears to be a magnet for trouble so I'm sure she could be developed a lot further and support a whole series of novels. (I've just spotted on the press release that this is indeed the first in a series, which is great news.)
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £8.99
Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.