Review of ‘Breathe’ by Cari Hunter.
Jemima Pardon is a paramedic with chronic asthma and a reputation for bad luck. She is always attracting traumatic jobs and isn’t very successful in the girlfriend department. When she meets Police Officer Rosie Jones, Jem’s luck seems to change as Rosie is self-assured, funny and interested in Jem. But a suspicious death draws them into an investigation that soon starts to spiral out of control. Can they develop their relationship further and dodge trouble in the process?
Cari Hunter is one of the masters of the lesbian mystery/crime genre and has a distinctive style that never disappoints her fans. Normally her books are heavy on the criminal, violent side and aren’t apologetic to show humanity at its worst. However, ‘Breathe’ is lighter in the violence and crudeness department while keeping the authenticity of her characters and the critique of the society it describes. If you are new to Ms. Hunter’s books and you like mysteries on a lighter side, ‘Breathe’ could be a good novel to start with.
I like that Ms. Hunter’s books have a distinctive British feel and that the author does nothing to sanitise her writing of the northern English vocabulary and traditions to please a more international market. I’ve lived in London for seven years and, for the life of me, I still have to look up the meaning of more than a few words that fill Ms. Hunter’s books. To make our lives easier, Ms. Hunter has come up with a glossary of terms in her blog post ‘Breathe Translation Guide‘. The divide between south and north of England is really tangible in her stories as are her descriptions of the landscape and the almost constant presence of the damp British weather. Altogether these aspects give her stories a unique and distinctive style.
Readers don’t need to worry about the authenticity of Ms. Hunter’s descriptions, specially in the medical field. As a paramedic herself, the author surely accrued a few experiences to fill more than one book and she describes them realistically and so photographically that the reader seems to be there next to the characters, the psychic distance barely there. Even though Jem’s scope of traumatic jobs seems a bit exaggerated for such a short period of time, the character and the scenes are so well portrayed that it’s easy for the reader to accept such a stroke of bad luck. The police procedural aspects of the story seem realistic as well and they move the mystery forward that slowly reveals itself with a few twists and turns.
Even though the criminal and violence aspects of this novel are on the lighter side, the social critique that is ubiquitous in Ms. Hunter’s work is present here too and makes the reader realise how dedicated are these first responders considering the tight budget restrictions and the great amount of pressure they work under. Without big announcements or heavy critiques, Ms. Hunter pushes the agenda of the UK National Health Service that is currently under threat and highlights the importance of their workers in helping the most vulnerable. The landscape of the most deprived areas of Manchester is the perfect setting to tell this tale.
Both main characters are well-written and multilayered, their chemistry slowly built in a way that, despite their differences, it’s obvious that they are made for each other. Both Jem and Rosie aren’t larger than life characters but fallible, almost anti-heroines that the reader can sympathise with and adore for their dorkiness. The rest of the cast, very diverse, doesn’t disappoint either, including the gloomy weather that is described accurately. For once, people around the world can sympathise with us poor sufferers of the somber British weather, instead of being shown an optimistic view like in so many other portrayals of the UK and Ireland. As any of the characters in this book would say, let’s have a brew (a cup of tea) and commiserate about it.
Overall, a very good light mystery with romance on the side, lovable leads, and a realistic setting. 5 stars.
ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.