The Distance is Helen Giltrow's debut novel.
Giltrow's premise intrigued me - Charlotte Alton, a London, England society woman has a secret life - she deals in information and in those circles is known as Karla. Karla makes things - and people disappear. Simon, a former client, a hired killer, reappears after Karla helped him disappear a few years ago. He's back in the game and needs her firm's help with smuggling him into a prison to carry out a hit. But it's not just any prison....it's a self governing prison colony set up in an abandoned village. The inmates are running things. To go in would be crazy.....
Wow! The Distance delivered one heck of a breakneck read. Both Karla and Simon are large than life characters. Karla is able to access, interfere with and manipulate data, people and situations. Simon, well, Simon takes a beating and keeps on ticking. (way beyond what I think any body could handle, but hey it makes for a wild story) The driven nature of both of these characters accelerates the plot into overdrive. And had me yelling "No.....why would you...." more than once.
The protagonists are intriguing, but The Distance is a plot driven book. The narrative switches between Karla and Simon, offering the reader a chance to see what's happening from all sides. But, no one is telling the truth, and everyone has their own agenda. What we think we know is turned upside down a few pages later. The last few chapters are excellent, throwing in a turn I suspected might be coming, but with even more twists included. The ending is excellent, leaving the door open to a second book with these characters perhaps? (Kinda hoping that's true)
I was fascinated with the idea of a self governing prison colony in current times. Giltrow's prison is stark, bleak and brutal. Her descriptions paint very vivid and visceral images. The ease with which Karla manipuates information is frightening. I can see this book as a movie - maybe with Matt Damon or Mark Wahlberg.
Gentle readers be warned, there is graphic violence in The Distance. Fans of powerhouse non-stop thrillers that will keep you up - this one's for you. Read an excerpt of The Distance.
What a great debut this was. I'll be watching for Giltrow's next book. You can keep with Helen Giltrow on Twitter.