We all love a bad boy, don’t we? But maybe not if he’s a suspect in a murder case. Ann Bloxwich plays with the bad boy trope and subverts expectations in her debut novel What Goes Around. She wastes no time, diving us headfirst into the action before threading together a gripping story.
Bloxwich’s humour shines through immediately, as she introduces us to a group of friends attending a strip show hosted by the glorious drag performer Kitty McLane. This humour is prevalent throughout but is nuanced with moments of hard-hitting realities and, of course, suspense. Bloxwich deftly builds the story, adding details bit by bit and keeping the reader guessing right until the very end.
While the novel slows slightly in the middle it is by no means a bad thing. The breathing room allows insight into the lives of the characters outside of the plot. The most heartbreaking being that of Alex Peachey, our protagonist. We see more than a police detective, we meet a man struggling to keep his family together in the face of his son’s disabilities. Joel, Alex’s son, isn’t just used as a device to create tension through his violent outbursts. His responses to his own actions are complex and believable, showcasing Bloxwich’s ability to round out even those characters on the fringes of the story.
Interesting characters are practically spilling out of the pages. At points, names do blur together but it’s purely because there are so many people it’s hard to keep track. However, that just makes you want to go back and rediscover that character. From the detectives on the case to the neighbour of a suspect with a Black Country accent so thick, you can actually hear it. The world, flawlessly painted by Bloxwich, is so full of life at points you forget there’s been a murder, right until you’re brutally reminded.
At its core, What Goes Around is an undeniably well-written mystery. The reader rarely knows more than the detectives themselves but where titbits are revealed, you relish them. The last third whizzes along smoothly and quickly as Bloxwich’s carefully weaved plot begins to unravel and reveal itself. When the dust settles, you wonder how you could have missed it all along. The author, true to her genre, leaves us with one last question to ponder on our own.
This is the sort of novel you could pick up time and time again. What Goes Around is a strong debut, it’s not perfect but it is deeply enjoyable and shows a lot of potential. You’d be hard pushed to find another crime novel so uplifting and harrowing at the same time. Personally, I cannot wait to see what’s next from Ann Bloxwich.
Words by Danni Scott
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