Title: Kill Your Brother
Author: Jack Heath
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: November 2021
Synopsis: What would you do when faced with an impossible choice? An unputdownable thriller from the bestselling author of the Hangman series.
‘Pure twist from start to finish’
‘twisted . . . fiendish . . . startling’
‘Survivor on steroids’
Would you kill your brother to save yourself?
After months of searching, disgraced athlete Elise Glyk has finally found her missing brother, Callum. He’s being held in a backyard prison by Stephanie Hartnell, a former sheep farmer with an axe to grind. But before she can free Callum or call for help, Elise is captured and locked up alongside him.
Stephanie Hartnell doesn’t have room for two prisoners, and she has nothing against Elise. But she needs to make sure Elise can’t go to the police. So she offers her a deal: kill Callum, and you’re free to go.
Of course, Elise won’t even consider the deal. No way. It’s unthinkable. But she’s running out of time to find another way out. And her brother may not have told her the whole truth …
A twisted roller-coaster of action and suspense from the acclaimed bestselling author of Hangman.
Former athlete, Elise Glyk has been searching for her brother for months, and now, after posing as a private investigator, she finally has a lead as the first scene dangles a seemingly innocuous and unrelated carrot in front of readers, and sends Elise headlong into a downward spiral, where she finds out things about her brother she’d rather not know, and where the narrative goes back and forth between the past – told in past tense, and the present, told in present tense, to help us understand Elise’s drive and the type of person she is. What it will come down to is survival – is Stephanie, the woman who has taken Elise and Callum hostage telling the truth, or is this an imagined vendetta against her brother? Elise will have to play along to find out.
Kill Your Brother is an interesting premise – how far would someone go to save their lives, and in doing so, are you helping someone get justice? Even if Elise goes through with this, she has to live with it – because she can’t go to the police if she goes through with Stephanie’s plan. The present parts of the novel are a sort of closed room model – where Callum and Elise are trapped in a cellar-type room on Stephanie’s farm, though every now and then we explore things from Stephanie’s perspective, and Elise’s ex, a cop in the small, fictional town of Warrigal where the book is set – Kiara. In between these scenes, we head into the past, to the Commonwealth Games and Elise’s time at the AIS as she trains to be an athlete. We get a sense of the type of person she is – seen as the shining hope of her hometown, and deemed an utter failure when things fall apart.
Jack Heath is one of those marvellous writers that writes for kids and adults, and across a few genres, but he specialises in crime and thriller, and Kill Your Brother is one of those disturbingly compelling reads that turns your stomach, yet you want to keep reading to see if Elise really does carry out Stephanie’s wishes. Each aspect of the novel is carefully crafted, so the clues and events seem unrelated at first, but Jack cleverly and expertly yields these as separate entities until the pieces of the puzzle start to fall together for the reader and Elise. It’s the kind of novel where you question everyone and their motives, and where you can try to piece things together yourself. Yet it is so satisfying to see Jack make us question what we know and what we are told- right up until the very end when everything seems to ramp up, and I was compelled to read until I came to the end.
Everyone in this book wasn’t wholly good – they were all flawed, but some flaws were more dramatic, and more unforgivable than others. It explored a family dynamic, where one sibling is seen to be the favourite, the other pushed into something and when things go awry, think they’re a disappointment. It explores the very core of humanity and how far we would go for revenge and to protect ourselves. It is the kind of book that sends all sorts of chills through you – and one that I found made me question what anyone would do when pushed to their limits.
Stephanie and Elise, and Kiara were flawed, yet strong and believable characters, giving a voice to women across a spectrum of identities, especially in a small town where they might not fit in for a variety of reasons, or where a fall from grace sees the entire town turn on them. Kill Your Brother is complex and diverse, and presents dilemmas in an interesting way. It’s definitely not a book for sensitive readers, or children, as Jack states in his author’s note, but if you can stomach what happens, it might be the book for you. I found it interesting and clever, and hope it finds fans.