CANARY – Duane Swierczynski


Available 26th February 2015 from Mulholland Books

Source: Bookbridgr

Every student needs a part-time job.

Hers is hunting criminals.

Sarie Holland is a good kid. An Honors student. She doesn’t even drink.

So when a narcotics cop busts her while she’s doing a favour for a friend, she has a lot to lose.

Desperate to avoid destroying her future, Sarie agrees to become a CI – a confidential informant. Armed only with a notebook, she turns out to be as good at catching criminals as she is at passing tests.

But it’s going to take more than one nineteen-year-old to clean up Philadelphia. Soon Sarie is caught in the middle of a power struggle between corrupt cops and warring gangs, with nothing on her side but stubbornness and smarts.

Which is bad news for both the police and the underworld. Because when it comes to payback, CI #137 turns out to be a very fast learner…

Although marketed as a crime mystery, I’m going to pop this one under New Adult – which is not really my favourite genre, I’m only 32 but feel depressingly too old for this sort of thing!

So Canary tells us the story of 19 year old Sarie. She is having a pretty rough time right now (New Adult 1st world problems!) – she is stressed about her final exams, mourning the death of her mother last year (OK, I’ll give her that one), has a strained relationship with her alcoholic/alcohol counsellor father, and has now found herself arrested on a narcotics charge… so as things are going pretty swimmingly, why not add a stint of being a confidential informant to the mix?

I kept dipping in and out of this one to begin with. There was nothing early on to reel me into the storytelling, nothing to hold my interest, and everything seemed a bit haphazard in the writing. I did like how our protagonist’s perspective was given in the form of journal entries addressed to her deceased mother, and the justifications for this – however, there was an awful lot of jumping about between other people’s perspectives, sometimes just a random paragraph chucked in there, and without sounding terribly slow, it was difficult to keep up and was a tad annoying.

I did like Sarie as a character though. She was a plucky, headstrong, and intelligent young woman – for one so intelligent though she did seem to make some ridiculously stupid decisions, but that kind of added to the authenticity of the 19 year old psyche. I also really liked Detective Wildey, Sarie’s arresting officer and ‘handler’. He depicted well the whole ‘good guy in a bad world’ role. I was never too sure about his relationship with Sarie, was it paternal or romantic? There were a few titbits in there to allude to his attraction to her, but nothing came of it.

Sarie’s main mission was to help Wildey bust elusive drug-lord ‘Chucky Morphine’ – Chucky is extremely mysterious, moves around a lot, and nobody really knows who he is. Then, da da daaaaaa, Sarie finally discovers ‘Chucky Morphine’s’ real identity and I gasped a huge…….’So What?!!’ I felt that maybe that was supposed to be a bit more of a shock revelation than it came across, and the drama just passed me by.

Unfortunately it wasn’t until I was at least three quarters of the way into the book that I started getting interested in what was going on – this was about more than just a naïve young girl and her small-time drug dealer not-quite-boyfriend and his notorious-yet-a-bit-lame supplier. Sarie found herself a small fish in a big old dirty pond and things started getting very dangerous for her. When the gangland stuff, hired hits, corrupt cops, and all that jazz got going, I did get stuck in. Unfortunately, it was all a bit late in the coming for me to rate this book too highly.

I will say though that if you are a fan of New Adult, and you like the crime thrillers, then as long as you can stick with the slow start you will really enjoy this story.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

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