Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

I have read every Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich that has been written, and I pre-order it every year when a new book is released. So, when I read the premise of Steph Broadribb’s novel, Deep Down Dead, published by the always brilliant Orenda Books, I was really looking forward to reading it.

Lori Anderson is a kick-ass bounty hunter and single mum to nine-year old Dakota. The reader is introduced to Lori as she picks up a job from the bond agency that she often works for, so she can raise money for Dakota’s medical bills, as she is remission from leukaemia. Lori has second thoughts when she realises that the fugitive she needs to capture is her former mentor and lover, JT, from a time she’d rather forget about. She puts her concerns to one side and takes the job, as she fears for her daughter’s health more than she fears seeing JT again. When she has to take Dakota with her on the three day journey because she has no childcare, little does Lori know that she is putting herself and her daughter in danger by revisiting the past.

One of things I loved about this novel is that Broadribb has not fallen into that trap of many “first in the series” novels, where so much time is wasted introducing all the characters to the reader, that it takes half the book before the action gets going, and the reader loses interest. Broadribb gets to the action pretty quickly and with a flashback of how Lori and JT came to meet, the reader knows all they need to know in order to move forward with the action.

Without wanting to give anything away, the bust does not go to plan and Lori is forced to question what she knows about JT and to decide whether or not he is the same person she knew from ten years earlier. Broadribb does a great job of showing Lori’s conflict with herself, as she remembers how she was when she was with JT before and what they went through. The reader is immersed in Lori’s thought processes, as Broadribb adds enough doubt to every decision to keep the suspense going throughout.

Throughout the novel, Lori revisits the rules that JT taught her when he showed her the tricks of the bounty hunter trade, and the way these are threaded through the chapters adds an extra level of fluidity to the story. It also reminds the reader of the depth of the past between Lori and JT, how much Lori’s life has been shaped by JT’s influence.This is cleverly done by Broadribb and is great springboard for Lori’s decision-making.

This is a beautifully structured novel which is fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable to read. It’s a completely different type of novel to the Stephanie Plum novels despite both having a feisty main protagonist. Deep Down Dead is a dark thriller which is action-packed from cover to cover and a real page-turner. Lori is a really likeable character who the reader cannot help but champion, even when she misjudges a situation. Steph Broadribb has written an absolute gem of a debut novel with lots of promise for future novels in the series. We get a sneaky peak of the first chapter of the second in the series and I cannot wait to read it. Orenda Books is starting the year with a bang and if last year is anything to go by (seven out of my top ten books of 2016 were published by Orenda) readers of Orenda books are in for a real treat!