Book review: Fifty Fifty, Steve Cavanagh


One thing I have been trying to implement more of into my routine since we fell into a third lockdown in January is reading. I know I have said it before and probably sound like a broken record, but it is always the first thing to slip when life gets busy. Luckily for me, my mum also loves to spend her spare time reading meaning I have had a constant supply of books through the post to keep me occupied - not to mention those I had as a Christmas gift.


Before I started Fifty Fifty I had heard some great reviews and so had high hopes from the outset. From just reading the blurb I knew it was right up my street, which was solidified from the fact I struggled to put it down the entire one week it took me to finish, if that.


Plot

Cavanagh's novel, Fifty Fifty, is a fast paced legal thriller that centres around a high profile murder trial in which the accused are two sisters, blaming each other. The protagonist of the novel is one of the lawyers, Eddie Flynn, whom I believe also features in some of Cavanagh's other books. Alternate chapters are told from his point of view, with most of the others being told from the opposing lawyers perspective, Kate Brooks. I say 'most' as there are also some chapters which are written from the killer's view, however we are unaware as to which sister this is until the very end. Personally I loved this touch. It's daring, yet excitingly clever when it has been pulled off in such an excellent manner. In essence the plot follows the murder case as it progresses and the lawyers both fight to prove their clients innocence, with all of the twists and turns that are thrown their way.


At no point during the novel was I confident in which sister would end up guilty, which kept me hooked throughout. There are red herrings thrown in continually that leave your mind jumping from one conclusion to another, matching the fast pace of the book. It felt like an ITV crime drama playing out in my head.


Overall, I found the plot to be excellent. An ideal thriller. The perfect mix of courtroom drama, crime action and backstory woes. As I said, I really struggled to put this one down due to the sheer investment I felt in the case - it was as if I was on the jury myself.


Characters

Another brilliant aspect of Fifty Fifty is the characters. I am personally not familiar with Cavanagh's other novels, therefore had not been exposed to Eddie before, but I found his character to be a great protagonist. Not only was his expertise in his profession demonstrated, but his humour, wit, dedication and contrasting dark side were also highlighted well. Similarly, Kate offered the perfect contrasting role. Her abilities shone, as did her own devotion to her profession and client. Kate was undeniably an empowered, independent and career driven woman, which was a refreshing role to see. Whilst they were both great lawyers, their practices and methods were entirely different, which only further added to the turbulent plot. Yet, seeing their platonic relationship develop as the novel progressed was welcomed by me as a reader.


It was hard to side with either party during the case, since I felt both lawyers were strong, likable characters that offered a huge deal to the plot - as did their side kicks. I enjoyed the inclusion of their own back stories and current personal struggles, as this provided further depth to each character and brought them to life in a multi-dimensional way. Flat characters who's personalities are not expressed within a story can often lower my enjoyment of a book, given I feel a lack of investment in their journey. However, Cavanagh perfectly provided this in Fifty Fifty meaning I was all the more drawn in.


On the flip side the two sisters up for trial are also interesting characters. Given they are prime suspects, I felt I went into the book feeling wary of them both. Not too much is given away about them on a personal level, which only heightens the intrigue of the plot. However we are continually reminded of their stark contrast. One being an attractive and successful business woman, the golden child of the two if you will, and the other being painted as much more mentally unstable and problematic. Their sibling relationship is evidently in tatters, meaning they really are completely pitted against each other. Even though these portrayals are made, I didn't find myself using the traits as indicators to who may be guilty. It felt an obvious case of trickery - much too simple for this thriller.


Writing style

The book is written entirely within the First person, with varying perspectives used. Thriller novels, as I've said before, tend to be less about the intricate language and more focused on engaging characters and fast-paced plots. Having said that, there were many scenes in Fifty Fifty that I felt had been described vividly, so much so I could easily picture them in my mind. Thinking back, I cannot put my finger on how Cavanagh achieved this exactly within his writing. But I definitely found it easy to picture the scenarios playing out in front of me, as if watching on screen. Perhaps this rests more upon my own investment in the plot or suggests I have watched one too many crime series over the years. Either way, I enjoyed the writing style of this book and have nothing negative to say.


One thing worth mentioning, as I briefly touched on before, is the use of the 'She' chapters. These were an extremely clever addition by Cavanagh, one which could have massively detracted from the excellent plot if done incorrectly. Writing whole chapters from the perspective of the killer without providing just that bit too much information as to give it away must require a lot of careful language and phrasing choices. Then, simultaneously ensuring enough extra information is given to make these chapters worthwhile for the reader is another difficult job to master. In essence, they had to be just right. And just right they were.


Three words to describe this book

Unpredictable, gripping and engaging.


Final comments

If you are yet to give this book a read, then I highly recommend you do so. Fifty Fifty is the perfect concoction of a courtroom drama, mystery crime and thriller novel - with a bow on top. I think what makes the book so gripping is the continual red herrings thrown in, which mimics how we anticipate a high profile legal case to go. Often the plot will lead you down a certain path, only to throw you off right at the end. However Fifty Fifty more trips you over right at the beginning and sets you off rolling down a hill uncontrollably, bouncing around as you go (analogies are not my strong suit). Adding in the main characters' own back stories, and you have an excellent thriller that deserves to be read by all, far and wide.


Have you read this book before? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

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