BOOK REVIEW: Harm by Hugh Fraser

Acapulco 1974: Rina Walker is on assignment. Just another quick, clean kill.
She wakes to find her employer's severed head on her bedside table. As she tries to escape, she is captured by a Mexican drug dealer who needs her radiant beauty and ruthless expertise to eliminate an inconvenient member of government.
'Why would an innocent girl become a contract killer?'
Notting Hill 1956: Fifteen-year old Rina is scavenging and stealing to support her siblings and dysfunctional mother, when a local gangster attacks her younger sister, Rina wreaks revenge and kills him.
Innocence betrayed, Rina faces the brutality of the post-war London underworld- a world that teaches her the skill to kill...

Publisher: Armstrong Nyman
Pages: 292

Hugh Fraser, who is probably best known as playing Captain Hastings in Poirot, was talking about his debut novel, Harm on Twitter. I very much liked the sound of it plus I am a big Poirot fan so I asked for a review copy and I am so glad I did as it is a fantastic read.
The action starts immediately in Acapulco in 1974 as we meet Rina for the first time, she is there on an assignment from her employer Martin; seven pages into the book we are confronted with this line:
'Martin's severed head is staring at me from the bedside table.'
After reading that I knew that I was in for a treat. The action just escalates after this event as Rina is captured by a Mexican drug dealer who has a new assignment for her. What follows is a gripping tale of cat and mouse, you are never too sure who Rina can trust, if anyone and whether she will make it out of Mexico alive,
The book goes back and forth between Mexico in 1974 and Notting Hill in 1956 where we see Rina growing up and gain some perspective on why her life has taken such a dangerous turn. I enjoyed both aspects of the book  but the parts set in 1956 were my favourite. It was so gritty and realistic, I would love it if Hugh Fraser wrote a prequel about Rina's childhood as there is so much to explore there.
Rina Walker is a brilliant creation, she is both feisty and vulnerable which makes her so interesting to read about. Her childhood was quite simply awful and her desperation to get a better life for herself and her siblings is clear to see and completely understandable.
I felt that Hugh Fraser got the balance just right, the action in the story is perfectly mirrored by emotion and depth. The pace of the book is great, I constantly wanted more of the story from Rina's present and past.
I really do hope that Harm by Hugh Fraser gets the attention that it deserves. It is a gripping, action-packed, well-thought out debut novel and I will be so pleased if author has more stories to share.

Many thanks to Hugh Fraser for sending me a copy of this book to review, Harm is available now. 

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