I’ve been following Iain Kelly‘s writing online for a few years now. He and I (along with a bunch of other folks) met while participating in a series of internet writing challenges such as this one. That’s where I found out that he’s the undisputed master of murder mysteries, only in his case, he actually created a series of novels in that genre to prove it.
Finally (given my meager budget), I was able to download a free promotional copy of A Justified State, the first novel in his “The State Trilogy”.
It was amazing.
The story is set slightly in the future in the UK, known as the nameless “state.” The nation is in a conflict with unrevealed adversaries in “The First Strike War,” which is the backdrop for everything that follows.
Police Detective Danny Samson, who lost his twin newborns soon after birth, and his wife a year later by suicide, is mysteriously assigned to investigate the murder of a local politician, who was the victim of a professional assassination.
Samson’s world is a socialist dystopian dictatorship disguised as a progressive paradise, where the state controls all forms of production. The citizens are provided for through universal health care and income subsidies, but power outages are rampant and the population is locked down into their anonymous, urban “cubes,” unable to leave their cities so that “nature” can heal itself. There is only one news media outlet, run by the state, and all forms of protest or dissent have been dismissed for the good of the state.
The detective’s investigation (he reminds me a lot of Columbo, but, given his lingering grief and overwhelming depression, without the humor) takes him into the shadowy realm of the socialist state’s elite, who are exempt from the stringent rules placed upon the citizenry. He discovers an underground social club, secret meetings among upper echelon politicians, and a plot that reaches into the very core of his own personal demons. I still get chills thinking about it.
The novel hearkens back to George Orwell’s famous 1984, but given that Samson, a rebel in the police department, must perform his investigation under the malevolent authority of “the state,” it also strongly reminded me of Len Deighton’s stellar novel SS-GB: Nazi-Occupied Britain 1941.
Yes, this is high praise, but Kelly deserves every word of it.
I tried, I really tried to find fault with the various details, but except for some tiny, tiny procedural issues (well, I tried to figure out why Danny wasn’t murdered about halfway through the story), it was perfect. I’m proud to be even slightly acquainted with this author, and I would be humbled and gratified if I could write a novel even half as good as “A Justified State.”
Big name publishers should be fighting each other to the death to produce this novel. This book belongs at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. It should be garnering tons of awards for best novel in various categories. No, I’m not kidding, I’m hard to impress, but Iain’s writing is over the top, especially for an indie writer.
If you could read only one novel this year, and you asked me which one it should be, I’d tell you that, without a doubt, to pick up a copy of “A Justified State.” You won’t be sorry. I promise.