It’s hard not to be as intrigued by the short biography of Hanna given at the beginning of the book – she has travelled the world with bands such as the Manic Street Preachers – as by the novel itself.
Something You Are centres on Nic Cuaruana, an anti-hero flung into a life of crime, shady dealings and murder by a horrific accident at a young age. The prologue which outlines this incident is instantly gripping, and sets the harsh, uncompromising tone for the whole novel.
In the first chapter, we’re introduced to Nic in later life. During the intervening years, he has established himself as an investigator-cum-hitman, employed by local gangs and the criminal underworld.
When he is hired by arms deal Pat Dyer to investigate the disappearance of his teenage daughter, – who, it soon transpires, has been mysteriously and brutally murdered – Nic becomes embroiled with the bereaved family.
He is especially drawn to the beautiful but brittle Clare, the mother of the murdered girl, with whom he becomes obsessed. As he delves deeper and deeper into the case, Nic finds himself questioning his own actions as much as those of the people around him.
The title of the novel, it transpires, is drawn from a line in American Pyscho: is evil something you do – or is it something you are? More than a straight-up crime novel, this book tells of Nic’s personal journey to try and discover the answer to this for himself.
A pacey read from a bright young talent... The story is fast-moving, and the introduction and investigation of various peripheral characters will keep you guessing as to who the murderer could possible turn out to be, in the tradition of the very best whodunits.
This is a book with a strong noir feel to it, and, while there are several scenes of extreme violence, the language is never gratuitous – rather, it serves to underline Nic’s ongoing feeling of unease with the world he’s found himself a part of, and his struggle to come to terms with his own identity.
The dialogue can at times feel slightly forced and jarring, preventing this otherwise deftly-drawn world from being completely immersive. Some of the characters, too, seemed rather too close to caricatures – for example, the Russian hitman – to be taken entirely seriously.
That said, Something You Are is a pacey read from a bright young talent, with a brilliantly-constructed plot that will keep you guessing – while perched on the edge of your seat.
Something You Are was published in hardback by Head of Zeus on 1 December and is available from Foyles, Amazon or your local independent bookshop, priced at £7.99. An e-book version is also available, priced at 85p.
Recommended for: Fans of smart noir and hard-boiled fiction.
Other recommended reading: For a feeling of claustrophobia and mounting panic, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie is a must; for grit, try Hide and Seek by Ian Rankin.