The publisher Orenda Books (stewarded by the energetic Karen Sullivan) has made something of a speciality of subtle and atmospheric crime fiction often from the Nordic countries. But Steph Broadribb’s debut novel Deep Down Dead, while consummately readable, has no truck with such subtleties. If anything, Broadribb and her protagonist, tough Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson, have more than a hint of Lee Child and Jack Reacher about them, with (literally) no punches pulled. The other parallel with Lee Child is, of course, the fact that this is an English writer making a sterling job of finding an American voice for both the narrative and the characters, and Broadribb proves to be just as adroit in this area as her male counterpart. Deep Down Dead involves the up-against-it Lori, desperate for money, taking on what proves to be a dangerous job. She has no choice, as medical bills for her ailing nine-year-old daughter (she is a single mother) are mounting up. Having browbeaten her boss into giving her this assignment, she makes a mistake – one that has the reader apprehensive from the start – she is obliged to take along her daughter when escorting her criminal charge. And soon she’s encountering some very nasty people indeed.
This is a promising debut, delivered with both energy and colour. Lori is an unusual protagonist, and Orenda Books’ venture into action thriller territory proves (in Broadribb’s capable hands) to be as successful as the company’s moody Scandinavian offerings.
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb
Orenda Books, 9781910633557 (paperback publication: Jan 2017)