Life hasn’t been the same since Rachel Watts moved to Melbourne. Having spent her whole life working her family’s property in Five Mile, the city is a loud and unwelcoming stranger. The one saving grace is James Mycroft, her neighbour. He is at home in the city that she hates, but he can also see a different side to it than most people can. While most people are caught up in the busyness of the city, Mycroft befriends the tram drivers and homeless.
When Watts and Mycroft find their homeless friend, Dave’s, body with the throat slit open, they are thrown into a mystery that may well be their last.
A lot of people have touted Every Breath as a modern Sherlock Holmes with teenage protagonists and a female Watson. This is not the best mindset to have when delving into this novel. There are some nods to Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, and it’s fun to see how many you can pick out. Even Mycroft and Watts allude to the similarities; but that’s all it is. Mycroft is no Sherlock and Watts is no Watson.
The mystery doesn’t have the same feel as a Sherlock Holmes novel either. It’s more involved, with Watts and Mycroft risking themselves to hunt down clues rather than drawing conclusions from the minute pieces information available. This approach is more suited to the YA market, leaving more room for action.
The characters in Every Breath are largely well drawn. Though it occurred years before, Mycroft is still reeling from the car accident that caused his parents’ deaths. He puts on a good show, but has trouble coping with stressful situations. He lives with an aunt who provides the physical things he needs, without emotional attachment. Watts is similarly lost. While she has the support of a loving family, the move to the city has unsettled her. Going back to the country isn’t optional, but she doesn’t want to accept the city as her new home.
Some parts of the relationships in Every Breath work well, while others leave me baffled. It’s weird that Watts’s parents basically force her to kill their dogs but they’re so strict that they won’t let her spend the night with Mycroft. It might just be me, but if she’s old enough to do one then she’s old enough to do the other – and, of the two, the former would scar me for life.
On the other side of that, Watts’s family are loving. They’re often tired from long shifts at work, but they all pull together to get the house-work and cooking done, and they take the time at the end of their day to see how everyone is. Mycroft and his aunt are evidently not close, but there are enough hints there to show that the strain in their relationship might be due to the unexpectedness of his parents’ deaths and of the sudden responsibility that has fallen on the aunt.
Every Breath is a good start to a new series. While it could stand on its own, there are a lot of characters arcs here that are nowhere near finished, and I’m looking forward to revisiting Watts and Mycroft in the next instalment.
Every Breath – Ellie Marney
Allen & Unwin (September 1, 2013)