A Time to Run by J.M Peace
Reviewed by Moraig Kisler.
Pan Macmillan Australia, 2015.
The hunt is on.
A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.
Reviewer: Moraig Kisler
‘Samantha Leigh Willis. He whispered it, rolling the word around his mouth like a vintage wine. Twenty-six years old. Yes, she would do nicely.’
At 4am, cabs are rare beasts, so off-duty police officer Samantha Willis (Sammi) accepts a lift with the barman from the Lion’s Head Tavern. When she wakes, bound and gagged, in remote bushland, Sammi has one hour to outrun Don and his pigging dog. One hour to avoid being the fifth notch on Don’s rifle.
Time to Run is J.M. Peace’s debut novel, a fast-paced and riveting thriller. The story is broken into a series of time bites, some only a few paragraphs long. The bulk of the action occurs over two days; the pace, at times, mimicking Sammi’s desperate dash through the thick scrub. The short scenes, minimal description and spare prose intensifies the sense of urgency. As the minutes fly by, the tension mounts to a gripping climax.The story is told from multiple points of view, primarily those of Sammi Willis and investigating officer Janine Postlewaite, and the quick viewpoint transitions add further to the nail-biting pace. The plot, although simple, is gripping and stirs up visceral fears. In the back of my mind lurked the thought that if a serving police officer can so easily be duped by a madman, what hope would I have.
Sammi is potential prey but she’s smart and knows her chances of survival are slim. It’s thrilling to climb inside her head. Her police training kicks in and she soon connects links to missing women. She methodically assesses the situation and how best to survive. She leaves handprints on the underside of the ute cover and, after finding a tracking device in her runners, sends Don and his dog in the wrong direction. Even when Sammi collapses, exhausted and cold, the tension remains electric as Janine Postlewaite throws herself into the search for her colleague. The blurb misled me into thinking Janine Postlewaite is the protagonist, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover Time to Run differed from mainstream police procedurals.
Peace is a serving police officer and peppers the narrative with cop jargon, procedure and interesting behind-the-scene facts. Who knew police officers regularly check on colleagues’ homes, that beer is dispensed like soft drink from a machine at the back of the station and that 6am drinks are common after night shifts? Such details inject authenticity into the story and paint vivid images of a hectic police station.
Time to Run is a page-turner which kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. It’s a must-read for those who like taut thrillers and a slight twist to standard police procedurals.