Some Shall Break
Allen & Unwin, $24.99 pb, 382 pp
Three new novels from Allen & Unwin explore gender power relations – with mixed results. In Ellie Marney’s Some Shall Break ($24.99 pb, 382 pp), a young woman helps law enforcement hunt a serial killer who is kidnapping and raping young women. Garth Nix’s latest offers interesting parallels, though The Sinister Booksellers of Bath ($24.99 pb 330 pp) includes plenty of fantasy elements to vary the formula. Meanwhile, Kate J. Armstrong’s Nightbirds ($24.99 pb, 462 pp) follows three different women who are navigating magical, political, and romantic intrigues.
In Some Shall Break, Marney returns to the traumatised protagonist of None Shall Sleep (2020), nineteen-year-old Emma Lewis, a survivor and now hunter of serial killers, who is called in to help with a case that echoes her own, giving her another opportunity to team up with former partner, now FBI agent in training, Travis Bell. In theory, her experiences lend her insight into the killer’s mind, and Marney’s set-up promises a tense cat-and-mouse chase. In practice, the tropes come thick and fast, and the investigation plods between dull travel sequences, clues that should have been immediately apparent to even a casual observer, and Emma’s blindingly obvious contributions. The ineptitude of law enforcement borders on farce; it takes over a hundred pages for someone to point out that all the victims look like Emma.
Emma’s trump card is her connection to yet another serial killer, the teenaged Simon Gutmunsson, who saved her life in the previous book. Simon is all cheap charm and insufferable undergrad English major, and his observations are as banal as Emma’s, such as an early suggestion that posing dead women in gutters might hint at the killer’s attitude towards women. No Hannibal Lecter, he.