‘Cells’ by Julia Cowan – Review

An engaging and original debut that takes readers down the ‘well’ of crime…

Cells is a story that begins with intrigue and mystery and keeps you reading all the way to the end. There aren’t many books that manage to carry the mystery element throughout and for her efforts Julia Cowan has done quite well. Somewhere between psychological and crime thriller, the story is told though multiple points of view, a perhaps different choice as it switches between various characters in third person and then first person for main character James – this would be my only real critique as many of James’s scenes feel a little repetitive in writing style but in the same breath pages are turned quickly.

While being about many different things, Cells explores the morality of rehabilitating criminal offenders by way of what is a dark experiment of sorts that aligns with vigilante justice. James never really had a chance from a young age and is caught up in some rather unfortunate circumstances by way of coincidence, or perhaps that’s how it was always supposed to be. His father’s influence is a central theme to his character arc.

What follows is a cat and mouse account that switches back and forth in time while overlapping in what I imagine took some real thought and work to put together by the author. From police corruption, blackmail and even a complicated love triangle this story ticks many of the boxes that fans of crime thrillers will enjoy. In some places it’s brutal and doesn’t hold back with the darker edges readers will experience. The question readers will face at the end of it all is whether or not James is any better for the journey he has been on.

4 Stars – an impressive debut, looking forward to reading more from Julia Cowan!

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