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In The Name Of by Ben Dunn: unforeseen revenge and redemption

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

A driven woman returns to avenge her husband’s death. An old flame endures brutality and unrequited love. Together they face a terrifying ordeal of life or death.

In The Name Of introduces us to two most unlikely heroes, or should I say anti-heroes. Charlotte is a slender but lethal woman driven by the need for revenge. Raucous, a battered, defeated, violence-for-hire nobody, whose greatest assets are his stubbornness and his ability to take a beating like no one else.

Violence a distasteful necessity

Crime and thriller novels are one of my favourite genres. I revel in the unfolding of an intricate plot and the clever solving of a complex puzzle. That said, I’m pretty squeamish about brutality.

In The Name Of contains more descriptive violence than I’m normally comfortable with, however, despite wincing at times it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. The violence was graphic in places but not gratuitous or gory. More like a description of a distasteful everyday necessity, simply part of the lives of the characters, rather than an aberration. This made it all the more powerful.

Characters' inner lives

What I particularly admired about this book was the wistful, regretful, yearning tone of the writing which elevates the story out of the formulaic. We see into the minds of the characters and the alternating voices of Charlotte’s and Raucous’ perspectives gives us a painful insight into their lives and motivations.

In other novels, Raucous would simply be the stupid muscle in the background, taking orders to administer pointless violence. Here, we meet a character who would still repel and appal us, but by glimpsing his inner life we see the man inside wrestling with a decision to attempt the greater good.

Writing a female character administering violence is often a tricky one. So many female characters become one-dimensional, unscrupulous villains. By revealing Charlotte’s thoughts and motives this is avoided, and we feel her doubts and pain, as well as her obsession.

Tense conclusion

Despite the bleak, hopeless prospects facing the unlikely alliance of Charlotte and Raucous, with seemingly no way out of their doomed situation, they never give up. The plot unfolds gradually and builds the tension cleverly. It’s an unusual but satisfying story.

I would recommend In The Name Of to those of you who enjoy fairly raw crime fiction with a human element, provided skilfully through insight into the characters interior lives. It’s not Miss Marple but its much more sophisticated than the ‘shoot-em-up’ genre.

Happy reading!

Thank you to author Ben Dunn who kindly sent me a copy for review - much appreciated.

(If you are also looking for a clever detective novel try Russ Thomas's Nighthawking or for a tense thriller try Catherine Steadman's Disappearing Act.)

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