Between his underrated Tuva Moodyson series and his critically acclaimed stand-alone The Last Thing to Burn, Scottish author Will Dean has proven himself more than astute at writing from the female perspective. This trend continues in what might be his most powerful novel yet – another stand-alone called First Born. Clear your calendar when you pick this one up, as it is the very definition of a one-sit read.
Like most twins – even the identical kind – Katie and Molly Raven are not the same person. Sure, they look alike and have the typically strong bond associated with twindom, but they also have very different personalities. Whereas Katie is confident and outgoing, most people would describe Molly as timid and nervous. For this reason, it surprised no one that Katie Raven was the sister who left London to move to New York City on her own. With her parents and Molly missing her, Katie enjoys her solo exploration of the world, until the evil that populates it finds her an unsuspecting victim.
When Molly gets the unfortunate call from her parents telling her that Katie has been killed, her whole life is thrown into turmoil. How can she live when her sister is gone? Despite debilitating OCD and fear of just about everything (including flying), Molly steels herself for the necessary trip to America – a journey she must make to figure out what happened to her other half…her better half.
First Born is told from Molly Raven’s point of view, so readers are immediately conscious of how difficult every moment is for this woman. Whereas most of us note dangers that exist around us when in scary situations, Molly is faced with those thoughts every moment of every day. What if the taxi driver has a heart attack and the car swerves into the wrong lane? What if someone is having a bad day and wants to leave the plane mid-flight? What if that street grate is loose and a family of vicious rats wait underneath? Multiply this tenfold and you have an idea of what being in Molly’s mind is like. But Molly is no willing victim, she also has a plan to counteract each of those potential disasters – some of which admittedly lead to other even more potentially hazardous choices, but that’s life. At least, that’s Molly’s life.
After safely and successfully making it to New York – a city that Will Dean authentically depicts on the written page – Molly hears the details about Katie’s murder and she cannot rest until the perpetrator is found. Doing her own investigation, Molly finds more than a few sketchy folks who may not have had Katie’s best interest at heart. The playboy boyfriend, the jealous best friend, the too-friendly professor, just for a start. Then there is the odd son of Katie’s landlord. He lives in the basement and Molly soon finds out he is an Incel, posting violent missives online condemning the countless women who seem to ignore him. Working with the police, Molly is determined to figure out who killed her sister and why.
Will Dean keeps the chapters short and leaves out anything that might seem extraneous, so the pages of First Born fly by. Will Dean is an author who knows how to hook his reader with an engaging premise and then leads them down a dark path to a destination they never knew they would discover. To say that First Born is packed with surprises would be a vast understatement. Every character here has an unexpected journey, and the reader is just tagging along as everything unfolds.
First Born is one of those books where saying too much will ruin the experience for others. It is also one of those books that lands on “Best Of” lists at the end of the year. Do yourself a favor and don’t let this one pass you by. Will Dean has solidified his standing as a must-read author for anyone wanting to explore the expansive reach of the crime fiction genre.
Disclaimer: A e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher(s). No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.