A shared secret, dead bodies and a protagonist struggling to cope with the burden. How much more noir do you want?
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Very Nearly Dead follows the tale of Jasmine Black. Told in a classic noir first person style. We meet Jasmine as she is approaching another school reunion. Many would look forward to the opportunity to catch up with old friends. In the case of Jasmine, everyone who shares in her secret will be there, with an undercurrent of threat – making sure nobody in the gang is likely to break any time soon.
The narrative jumps time periods to build its story and drip feed in twists and turns to keep you guessing. Although Jasmine is our lead, not all of the narrative is told from her perspective, lending other voices and internalised perspectives to the piece.
As well as being a well constructed noir thriller, there are underlying messages here about seeking and accepting help, coping with pressure and taking care of your own mental health. A lot of Jasmine’s decisions come from a place of near panic and a feeling that there is almost literally no escape route available to her. A horrible position to be in, and although she is not the most sympathetic of protagonists as you’ll see when you meet her, you can’t help but feel for Jasmine and the plight she is in.
AK Reynolds has a writing style all their own. Their, as AK is a pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team. They use a lot of short sharp sentences, again in a classic noir style, but with a greater emphasis on the narrow-focused detail than we usually see in the pulps, giving the approach a unique and modern feel. It is most certainly engaging, and creates a page turner of a tale. I read this in three or four sittings, blasting through from twist to twist. At just over 200 pages it’s a quick and engrossing read that keeps you guessing right through to the closing pages.