Jameson, Hanna - 'Something You Are'
The night disappeared with the next absinthe. I blinked and the club was replaced by my front door. Hours had been lost inside that shot glass. Mark was laughing at something with an arm around my shoulders, unsteady on his feet.
Nic Caruana did not get paid for his first killing, a self-defensive stabbing, he drifted into the job by accident. Now he is walking towards the house of his next client, an arms-dealer whose daughter has gone missing. A beautiful blonde opens the door, his client's wife. She looks like a model. She has scars on her wrist. She is very uncooperative; she tells Nic that she is sure that their daughter is at a party somewhere. Nic leaves to visit his police source, Brinks, whom he finds contemptible but a source is a source. Meanwhile the client has already got to his daughter's boyfriend and extracted some answers. The boyfriend claims to know nothing about the girl's disappearance, they broke up and she has already been seen around with someone else. When Nic surprises his police source at home, Brinks tells him that he will only be brought onto the case if they find a body but Nic knows that. He revisits his client's house. His client is still not at home and his wife is still hostile but she lets Nic look around their daughter's room. Helping himself to a diary and some coke that he finds, Nic is preparing to leave when he gets a call from Brinks. The girl is dead. She has been found: raped, shot and beaten so badly that Brinks only recognised her from Nic's description of her clothes. As he knew it would, Nic's job has turned into the one he is good at – hunting down a target and exacting slow revenge.
SOMETHING YOU ARE is Hanna Jameson's first book and 'Book One' of her series entitled "London Underground". Jameson conceived the idea for SOMETHING YOU ARE at the age of 17. Given that she is currently, at the age of 22, studying American Literature at the University of Sussex it is perhaps not coincidental that the title of her book is a quote from Bret Easton Ellis's AMERICAN PSYCHO: "Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?" A good question. And one which I have not managed to answer as far as the characters in this book are concerned. The narrator is a hit man who flat-shares with another hit man whose occupations depend on the patronage of the dealers-in-something-or-other with whom they mix at their favourite club, The Underground (hence the name of the series). It's an urban lifestyle that one could identify with – except for the whole "hit man and dealers" bit. However every character in the book is damaged: Caruana, his flatmate, his junkie sister, his cold father, his arms-dealing client's beautiful, self-harming wife with whom Caruana becomes obsessed and last but not least the couple's dead sixteen-year-old daughter. Damaged personalities are this narrative's norm. So where on the scale of characters are we with the question of evil? Something you are? Or the deeds that you do? Hard to tell in this book's "noir" world.
If this sounds like a criticism, I don't mean it to be. Perhaps I am just not at home with the title. However this is a well-plotted book with plenty of suspense, violence and risk and one which I read happily. It is a distinctively "young" book with a black and white feel, full of both passion and callousness. Its characters are well drawn but without a wrinkle (except those earned by a life of hard drugs) and without much of a sense of irony. Yet despite the fact that not many of its characters are still standing on the final page, I wouldn't mind reading more about those that are. And I like the idea that the narrative for the series will be told by different characters who frequent the club, The Underground; in itself this tempts me to read Hanna Jameson's next book.
Lynn Harvey, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.