NTN: Code Runner by Rosie Claverton

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Amy Lane is one of the more intriguing characters in British crime fiction. We are not entirely certain what she looks like, except that she is frequently greasy-haired, unwashed, dishevelled, and malnourished. She is also a chronic agoraphobe, and hardly ever leaves her house – paid for by an elaborate swindle by Amy and her big sister, Lizzie. The victims of this scam? None other than the girls’ own wealthy parents. Amy earns her living as a consultant with South Wales Police. Her skill-set? An uncanny affinity with all things hi-tech. There is no computer system she cannot hack into. There is no CCTV feed across Cardiff that she cannot access, and her ability to navigate cyber space is a huge bonus to the Cardiff cops.

For all her technical expertise, Amy finds it difficult to look after herself. By circuitous means, which you can read about in the first Amy Lane story – Binary Witnesssister Lizzie has employed a carer to look after her brilliant but chaotic sibling. His name? Jason Carr. Mr Carr is not a your average social services home help. Rather, he is a former career criminal who has served time in a Welsh jail for petty villainy in the deprived council estates of the Welsh capital. In an attempt to go straight, Jason has accepted what he thought was a routine cleaning job for Ms Lane. She rapidly learned that Jason’s street-smarts enable him to go to places which even her formidable digital world skills cannot access. In short, Jason can walk the streets which are no-go-areas to Amy, because of her condition.

A drug shipment is meant to be delivered to a remote Welsh beach. It all goes terribly wrong, and when money, drugs and bodies start washing up on the tide, Jason Carr just happens to be out for a walk with his old mum, and takes a few photos with his mobile, knowing that Amy will be interested. Unfortunately for him, this draws him onto the police’s radar, and as a result of his criminal record he is soon back behind bars. It doesn’t help that behind the same bars are a bunch of criminals who have a huge grudge against Jason, and are determined to make his stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure brief, violent and – ultimately – terminal.

More by luck than judgment, Jason escapes from a prison van during an ambush which involves a comical flock of sheep, but also the tragic bludgeoning to death of the prison guards. He is now the focus of a manhunt, and is on his own in the cold and wet Welsh countryside. Meanwhile, the police have lost patience with Amy, suspecting divided loyalties, and have confiscated her precious computer equipment without which she is practically deaf and blind. After many close calls, Jason – who is being hunted by both the police and the drug gang – finds his way back to Amy’s house, and there is a dramatic denouement.

Some of Jason’s escapades do stretch credibility at times, it has to be said, but the warm and beating heart of this novel is the relationship between Jason and Amy. It is much more than a ‘will they, won’t they?’ teaser, and the writing describing their relationship is of the highest quality. The interaction between the two is sexy, but with a complete lack of sex, and loving, without any obvious acts of love. I think Rosie Claverton has played the alchemist here, and created literary gold from very base metals. As this is her second novel, it ticks all our New Talent November boxes.

Carina Press

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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