Book review: A Lesson in Violence (She Rides Shotgun) – Jordan Harper

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Jordan Harper’s novel seems to have been through numerous name changes for whatever reason? Anyway, it isn’t really important, all you need to know is that this is one of my favourite books of the year and I can’t recommend it enough.

The plot for the novel isn’t anything particularly new. A con gets released from prison, but before he does he falls foul of Aryan Steel-a Nazi crew that runs numerous illegal operations from the inside. A hit is put out on Nate, his partner and his 11-year-old daughter, Polly. What follows is a road trip filled with violence and sacrifice, but perhaps more importantly, heart.

Like I said, the plot isn’t genre-busting, but Harper’s storytelling chops elevate this crime thriller from good to great. I’ve said it so many times before, the thing I love more than anything, particularly in a novel is the characters. If the characters speak to me very early on in a story then I know the book has the makings of something special. A Lesson in Violence leads are Polly and Nate. The relationship between Polly and her father is awkward early on. Nate isn’t sure how to be a father, but the bond between them grows exponentially until they take on a sort of Bonnie and Clyde aura. There are times I felt similarities between this story and the movie Leon, starring Jean Reno and directed by Luc Besson. Similarly, there forms a special bond, in this case between a hitman and a young girl.

The pacing is electric in this novel. Not a chapter is wasted. At times Harper writes like a veteran. His words are soulful and honest, touching when they need to be and the relationship between Polly and Nate never once feels forced, it really is an excellent book. The violence is never gratuitous, it is gritty and bloody, though necessary for the narrative. It is one of those books where there is an inevitability about the books ending. You don’t need to be a genius to work out where it is going, but still Harper manages to bring things together superbly well, and for me the final pages was both stunning and emotional.

If you’re a fan of crime fiction, or even just a fan of great books then A Lesson in Violence needs to be in your collection. I can’t believe this is a debut novel! Fantastic. One of the best books I’ve read in 2017, for sure

5/5 prison tattoos from the Grim Reader.

Pick up a copy from here.

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