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Book review: The Method

Books & Poetry

Practising attorney and law professor Shannon Kirk’s debut thriller The Method is a strong and unique addition to this popular genre.

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What makes this crime thriller different to the usual dark novel is that the victim is no victim.

Imagine a pregnant 16-year-old girl snatched from the streets and shackled in a van. Her baby wasn’t planned, but she loves him and a monster has just held a gun to her belly, to her unborn baby’s head. She must be utterly terrified.

Now, picture instead a woman like Lisbeth Salander (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) – one who refuses to be a victim and who, from the moment of her abduction, plots her escape and revenge against her captors. She is calculating, gifted, a genius and as cold as they are.

This is her story of escape. The question isn’t “does she escape and survive?” – we know she does because the narrator is telling the story of what she endured 17 years ago –  it’s a question of how she’ll pull it off.

Balanced against her calm, emotionless, almost sociopathic voice and approach to her seemingly hopeless situation is the voice of Special Agent Roger Liu, the man determined to save her. The two weave a memoir of how, together, they brought down a teenage pregnancy abduction ring. While the story is simple, the characters certainly aren’t.

It’s the brilliance of the main character’s voice, her ability to detach emotionally and use everyday objects (her “assets”) to her advantage that show Kirk’s own genius. The effect is somewhat like a teen girl MacGyver. And while this novel does go to some very dark places, the violence is not gratuitous.

Special Agent Liu adds the emotions most readers will identify with, and it’s through his experience in the FBI Kidnapping Unit that we are led to feel the perpetrators deserve what’s coming to them.

While the story is quite straightforward, it has enough twists to prevent it being predictable. There are a few places where Kirk weaves character back-story in to slow the action of the unfolding plot and, while this is no doubt a device to delay gratification, it does become irritating at times.

Overall, however, The Method is an excellent and fiercely written novel introducing characters not generally encountered in genre fiction. It’s easy to see why it’s already won awards and been optioned for a film. It is, perhaps, the next Gone Girl for a younger audience. Highly recommended unless you want to go to sleep early.

Shannon Kirk’s The Method is published by Hachette Australia, $29.99.

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