I reviewed ‘Ardent Justice’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.
Could you hate someone enough to kill them? And what if they deserve it? Ade is a tax-inspector. She hates the City of London. She hates the endless corruption, the bland assumption that tax is for the little people. She hates the casual sexism, the smug self-assurance, the inviolability of the men she deals with, and the cold certainty that nothing you can do will ever touch them. Then Webster tries to rape her, and she hates him enough to try to kill him. She finds herself in the world of the rootless, marginal street homeless who live meagre lives in the shadow of the office blocks that house the rich. She meets Paul, an Occupy activist who works with homeless people. Ade and Paul become modern-day Robin Hoods, getting involved in various attempts to expose the scale of fraud in the City and help the poor and dispossessed, but the power of money to influence government and control the media defeats them. As their love for each other grows, they find real fulfilment in fighting for the rights of ordinary people, such as Gemma, a homeless single parent. Then Webster comes back into Ade’s life and it’s payback time. Ardent Justice is a gripping feminist thriller, endorsed by Polly Toynbee, the leading Guardian columnist. It tells the story of Ade’s struggle against the City and for her own integrity, and of her love for Paul, and of how hard it is to live a morally good life in a corrupted world. It has been inspired by Zoe Fairbairns and Lionel Shriver and will appeal to fans of character-led thrillers. Profits will be donated to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.
There are a lot of positive things to say about this book. The research that has obviously been done into the workings of the financial institutions is excellent. The idea behind the storyline is excellent. The characters have real potential to be excellent. And the sentiments behind the story are great too. What this novel says needs to be said and it’s refreshing to read a book by a novelist who isn’t afraid to say it.
For me, however, the potential is never fully realised. The characters could be amazing – inspiring and compelling. But we never really get to know Ade that well. She has really strong ad well-thought out motivations for the way she acts and thinks, but these need to be developed more fully. And more detail about Paul, the Occupy campaign itself and his work with the homeless would add a deeper layer to the narrative.
I also felt that the revenge that the two enact was a little naïve, if I’m honest. Yes, it’s true that the money that corporations and big businesses get out of paying would be better spent on the NHS and schools etc. but is it realistic to think that even if these taxes were collected, this is where the money would go? The NHS isn’t underfunded because there isn’t enough money – it’s underfunded for political and ideological reasons.
There are also issues with the dialogue which is unrealistic at times, and I felt that the characters needed further emotional depth in order for the reader to care about them.
I really want this novel to work – and I really think that it can. It does need development though and the depth that the subject deserves. I hope that Mr Taylor-Gooby decides to work on his novel further and makes it into the story that it can be.