A Woman Scorned
(The Sam Beckett Mysteries, Book 2)
Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Young Adult
Format: Paperback, 284 Pages
Date: 17th December 2017
I received an advanced copy of this book from the author; obviously this hasn’t influenced the review below, which is my honest assessment of the novel.
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As she continues her recovery after the traumatic events of her first foray into working as P.I., Sam Beckett is compelled to go through therapy as a pre-condition for continuing her association with the Criminal Investigation Department of the local police. The shocking outcome of what should have been a simple case has not only left physical scars, but also psychological scars brought on by the guilt she feels over the death of the person closest to her. Reluctantly, Sam agrees to seeing the designated therapist only to find herself embroiled in a new investigation when she arrives for her first session to discover the shrink, Dr. Weiss, has been brutally murdered.
A Woman Scorned is book two of the Sam Beckett Mysteries series, picking in the aftermath of the events in book one, The Game Begins. Perhaps unsurprisingly this second instalment is somewhat darker in tone than its predecessor, while Sam is a more damaged character―which makes her an even more interesting protagonist as she struggles to come to terms with the consequences of her decision to pursue her P.I. ambitions, and the subsequent notoriety it has brought her in the small Scottish town where she lives.
In contrast to her debut novel, Rebecca Howie, has opted to go a more traditional route with the follow up, making A Woman Scorned a much more conventional “whodunnit” in which a murder that happens very early in the story needs to be solved. It can be argued that this choice robs the book of the unpredictability that characterised The Game Begins, but, once again, the author has constructed a well thought out mystery that renders predictability a non-issue. Few, if any, readers will solve the case before the mystery is fully revealed.
One possible weakness in the story is that though it is written to be accessible to readers who haven’t read The Game Begins, it never really feels like a stand-alone tale. There are frequent references to events that occurred previously which will almost certainly make new readers feel as though they are missing out on the relevance of certain things. It would definitely be advisable for prospective readers to start with the first book so they can greater appreciate what this book has to offer.
Where A Woman Scorned does show improvement over its predecessor is in the characterisation department which was one of the highlights of The Game Begins. As before, the interactions between Sam and the various other characters is very good; but the increased character development, this time around, results in Howie providing more insights into Sam Beckett’s personality, and also some of the supporting characters―particularly DS Marshall, and to a lesser extent, DC Natasha Morton. It is actually rather apparent throughout the narrative that Marshall is the character the author enjoys writing the most.
There is a small, but noticeable improvement in the quality of the writing; the end result is prose that makes for a slightly more engaging read, even if the plot is not as inventive and intricate as The Game Begins. This is an encouraging sign for the future―both for the progress of the author, and the series which feels very much like Veronica Mars meets Taggart. It’s still hard to comprehend how a teenage author was able to write such an accomplished crime novel. Even at this early stage in her writing career Rebecca Howie has demonstrated that she has the potential to become the Elizabeth George for the YA generation.