By Ellie Marney
Publisher: Tundra Books
To Sum It Up: With all of his logic and forensics knowledge, James Mycroft is more than an amateur sleuth. When he and his friend/neighbor Rachel Watts happen upon a murder scene, Mycroft’s brilliant mind immediately sets to finding the killer. Assisted by Watts, the two work to solve a mystery that looks likely to fall through the cracks in the justice system otherwise.
Review: Confession time: I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s never seen an episode of Sherlock; I’ve also never read any of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels about the world’s most famous detective. I don’t even read mysteries often; I can count on one hand the number I’ve read as an adult (I did love reading the Encyclopedia Brown books when I was a kid, though). But I kept coming across Ellie Marney’s contemporary, Sherlock Holmes-inspired Every Breath, and, looking to read something outside of my usual genres for a change, I decided to give Every Breath a go.
James Mycroft and Rachel Watts are friends/neighbors/classmates in Melbourne, Australia. Watts handles the narrating duties; she’s still adjusting to city life after her family’s financial situation forced them to give up their farm. Mycroft is not without his own struggles; he lost his parents as a child and has been raised by an aunt who provides the basic necessities but with whom he has no emotional connection. If you’re beginning to think that Watts and Mycroft are two kindred souls who perfectly complement each other, you would be correct.
Many other readers have swooned over the development of Watts and Mycroft’s relationship, and I shall add my own swoons to the pile. Truly, truly, my favorite aspect of Every Breath was the irresistible Watts/Mycroft combination. Not only does the pairing work in the sense that they’re an ace investigative team, but there’s also the undeniable chemistry between them from the novel’s outset. Their banter is so easy, and there’s just always this sense, even when they’re at odds with each other, that they’re right together. This is one of the best written YA romances I’ve read in a while, and for me, was the standout here, even over the unraveling of the murder mystery.
I took to Mycroft straightaway because—what’s not to love? He’s hyper-intelligent, logical, and fastidiously attentive to details. In other words, he couldn’t be better suited to detective work. Mycroft is also on the quirky side, but he wouldn’t be Mycroft without his little eccentricities. And Mycroft is the real deal; he’s not playing at being a detective. The only thing that’s missing is the badge to make it official.
Watts may not be into studying forensics like Mycroft is, but she brings plenty of her own smarts to the partnership. She doesn’t shy away from voicing her opinions, either, and I can’t emphasize enough how she’s not merely second fiddle to Mycroft. My only quibble with Watts’s character was how much the novel seemed to dwell on her yen for the country. Granted, feeling out of place in the city and longing for her former way of life were central to her character’s conflict, but I couldn’t help feeling that Mycroft’s internal battles were integrated into the book more subtly. After the first few times Watts mentioned her difficulties adapting to Melbourne, I got the picture and thought the additional references began to belabor the point a bit.
As for the mystery that forms the heart of Every Breath, the suspense buildup is very well done. The crime itself is portrayed unflinchingly, and the fact that it’s not sugarcoated lends the book a rather impressive sense of gritty realism. What I was not so keen on was the big reveal. Although I really enjoyed following Mycroft and Watts as they looked into every possible lead to figure out who killed their homeless friend, Dave, I immediately picked out the perpetrator. When it came time for the culprit’s tell-all speech, the motives just didn’t deliver the impact that I’d been expecting in comparison to how skillfully the investigation itself was plotted.
Although Every Breath pulled up a tad short for me with its resolution, I loved Watts and Mycroft and their snappy dialogue and their wonderfully simmering romance. The latter was a most pleasant surprise, and I’d recommend this book on the strength of the romance alone. And believe me—I do not typically read books for the romance!
All in All: I thought Every Breath lost some of its steam toward the end, but that didn’t overshadow all of the Watts/Mycroft awesomeness. I don’t think anything could, really, because the relationship is developed so brilliantly.