Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro
|Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A detective/spy novel with a difference: we're left to form our own opinions. A compelling and promising start to an original trilogy that has us tapping our brain cells while we await book #2.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 376||Date: October 2013|
|Publisher: Rippple Books|
Dixon Grace is an Aussie living a complicated life in Hamburg. She juggles her live-in, ambitious, immature boyfriend with an older wealthy industrialist lover while teaching English to local company employees. But however complicated that seems, it's about to get worse. The police come for her in the early hours, although it's not till she's ensconced in the interrogation room that Dixon realises she's charged with espionage and murder. The problem is complex but the answer is simple: she must escape to prove her innocence. Having said that, 'simple' is a relative term. From the language school for which she works to the Indian corporation that keeps cropping up, nothing is what it seems, including Dixon Grace.
Australian author Alexa Camouro is on record as wanting to invent a hero who would twist gender perceptions and be the sort of girl that James Bond would fall for while not needing James Bond and whooping his posterior. In this way Alexa 'spoilers' herself a little, hinting that Dixon isn't the innocent she first seems. So how does Alexa get herself out of that one? By creating an excellent multi-layered book where the fascination isn't always in what happens, but how and why. (It also contains adult themes, by the way.)
What seems like a simple read is actually designed as a jigsaw with pieces thrown in the air. The chapters are each entitled with a date and location; keep an eye on that. Paying attention to the dates will come in handy as it jumps around in time and place but not unintelligibly or gratuitously so. Each chapter or jigsaw piece reveals more about the plot and Dixon's past bringing us a step closer to the almost-full picture. (More about that later.)
As we read on, past the interview room we start getting glimpses of contradictions and our suspicions are aroused. Indeed nothing is for nothing - even the most innocuous conversations become vital to our understanding. (Even that random chat between Alexa and her father while golfing raises questions that are out of proportion with the apparent unimportance of their natter.)
The really brave element (and reason for my allusion to the almost-full picture) is that Alexa deliberately leaves things out. It doesn't spoil the story but it does mean that we have something on which to muse and a room of many readers will arrive at many conclusions. However, if you don't want to muse, you don't have to.
There's enough meat on this highly original skeleton for us to enjoy as it comes if that's what we'd rather. Dixon is fun and resourceful without being clichéd or trite, Ben the boyfriend (and total baby. not babe, baby!) is satisfyingly annoying and Ole the industrialist, endearing. The German police appear slightly stereotypical and, in Alexa's crusade to shift gender balance, the story sometimes feels a bit all-women-good/all-men-weak-or-bad but there's enough exception and originality elsewhere to make this forgivable.
Real world dilemmas like India's desire to have their fair share of the global economy and human trafficking are dealt with in greater-than-Bond depth. Meanwhile we're left with dilemmas of our own, not the least being for whom is Dixon working? Ask me in two books time and I may be able to tell you but I'd be just as interested in your ideas on the subject.
I'd like to thank Rippple (yes, with all three 'p's) for providing us with a copy for review.
Further Reading: If you fancy pursuing other writers who have tried twisting the gender expectations, we recommend The Polka Dot Girl by Darragh McManus, a thriller set in a city where everyone is female.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro at Amazon.com.
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