Title: Someone Else’s Life
Author: Kevin J. Simington
Publication date: July 11, 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thriller
One Line Summary: How far would you go it you were a PI and your daughter was in danger?
Honestly, I’ve been trying to cut down on the mystery and thriller reading. They’re just a little too real right now. But, when Mr. Simington contacted me for a review, there was just something about the blurb that excited me. Maybe it had to do with his description mentioning “character-driven” and “fascinating characters”. Sometimes I find authors’ descriptions of their novels to be a bit overblown, but, in this case, I’m glad I went with my instincts because it was spot on! There’s a large part of me that’s hoping this is the start to a series because I really want to see the characters again.
The Plot: All About One Man
It all starts with John Targett innocently and helpfully making a citizen’s arrest after a guy killed a convenience store worker. No big deal, until he finds out the guy he captured was a gang member, and now the gang has him in their sights. But, really, no big deal. John was in the military; he can handle himself and keep his teenage daughter safe.
That doesn’t stop a mysterious young woman named Quinn from breaking in and talking him into hiring her as his assistant. She has some serious tech skills, so, sure, he lets her work for him. She comes in useful, too, when a case walks in, the guy asserting he’s no who he’s supposed to be. Baffling at first, Quinn manages to dig into some classified files and discovers that, yup, he’s right.
Meanwhile, the gang is still a threat, but John has a plan. It might be a little dangerous, but John will do anything to protect his family. After all, he’s ex-military with a PI license.
There’s a lot going on in this book: John PO’ing a gang, a fascinating case about identity, John’s typical PI work, and a bit of romance. It all works well together since the focus of the book is John Targett himself. Someone Else’s Life beautifully introduces him and then throws the reader straight into his life from page one. The title doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until later on, but it’s actually a very chillingly perfect title.
With so many threads running through this book, it’s easy to say it’s too much and there’s no focus to it. None of the cases prove to be a real focal point and the gang parts are interspersed in a way that doesn’t make them feel like a focal point either. But it does work out brilliantly. This is a fascinating book about one man and the lengths he’ll go not just for his clients, but for his family. In the end, it’s easy to see every subplot adding another leg to support the real plot, turning it into a well-oiled machine.
The Characters: Completely Natural
Someone Else’s Life is told from John’s perspective. He has a unique and hilariously sarcastic voice that adds humor, levity, and a strong component to his character. His answers to law enforcement officials were also tinged with the perfect amounts of sarcasm and wit, every word he says carefully balanced between truth and lie. Until it comes to his personal life, which is a bit of a mess since his wife was murdered five years ago and he now finds himself alone with a fifteen-year-old daughter who speaks in a, seemingly, foreign language. He manages to keep things together and his wits about him in an incredibly mature and responsible way, until it comes to Claire, the beautiful doctor who helps sew him up. Then he’s just adorably clueless, but it just adds another layer to this guarded, dutiful, protective, well-meaning man.
The best part of the characters was that they each had a specific role and place. Not only did they feel like real people, but they also added something to John’s character without feeling like that was their only role. Their interactions with him and each other were fun, lifelike, and spoke to generational differences in a really fun way. It was natural and completely believable and made sense when characters vanished for a while. They way the characters come and go feels a lot like the way life moves. On certain days, one is more likely to see someone. That’s how the characters here behaved, and it only helped make the story feel more lifelike.
The Setting: Northern California
Most of Someone Else’s Life takes place in Northern California, in Santa Clara county. Part of it also takes place in a little town in Mexico. The seedier parts of both locations are focused on since there a decent amount of gang activity in the book, but, outside of that, it felt suburban with “yummy mommies” at soccer games and the mention of Claire moving away from the down town area.
John’s office is in a mixed use area as he and his daughter live above his office space. He also rents out an adjacent space to a coffee shop owner with whom he has a delightful relationship. It proves to be both advantageous and dangerous, adding an interesting edge to the story as business, daily living, and frequent threats are thrown into one place. In general, though, the focus was not on describing the setting, but on using it as the background for the story, giving it roots and providing information about John and the people around him.
Between a plethora of fun, interesting, and dangerous cases; the pursuit of a personal cause; and fun well-developed characters, Someone Else’s Life delivers on every front. It’s delightful, witty, dangerous, and thought-provoking. It asks the question of what if your life wasn’t supposed to be yours in a most chilling way. The danger level is high throughout the novel, constantly raising the stakes and potentially making the reader breathless as events unfold. It’s thrilling, and absolutely ends on the best possible note.
I’ve been trying to cut down on mysteries and thrillers lately, but something about Someone Else’s Life just pulled at me, and I’m so glad I read it! It’s fast-paced with a lot going on, but it’s all centered around John, who was amusingly sarcastic, had the perfect comebacks, was charmingly confused about the “language” his daughter and assistant speak, and adorably out at sea when it came to romance. I did feel the romance moved a little too fast, but John and Claire were just too cute together. I adored this book, though there were odd words and phases that are decidedly more British than American that kept throwing me off. Still, I’d even go as far as saying I think John Targett is my newest character crush, and I’d really, really like to see him again. The whole book seems to be swimming in so many subplots it’s a little difficult to figure out what it’s centered around, but keep going and the pay off is so worth it. I mean, that end was just perfection and tied it all together so well.
Great if you enjoy: thrillers, PIs, strong characters, male leads, character-driven books, sarcastic characters, cute romance
Not great if you’re looking for: mysteries/thrillers focused on one case, mysteries with police involvement, violence, hard boiled PIs
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Thank you to the author, Kevin J. Simington, for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.