You’re going to want to clear some reading time before you open the covers of Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead because once you crack it – and the whole can of worms inside – open, you are not going to want to put it down until you know that bounty hunter Lori Anderson has her man. And a hot bath, a cold drink, and a whole lot of downtime – although I’m not convinced Lori knows what that is. But even if she doesn’t, you’ll no doubt need all of those once you finish reading Deep Down Dead.
Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that’s when things start to go wrong.
The fugitive she’s assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori’s former mentor – the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida’s biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where ‘bad things never happen’, but he’s also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they’re ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal.
I really like how Steph Broadribb weaves in the backstory of Lori’s past while setting up the story that unravels in Deep Down Dead. I got a real sense of where Lori had come from, what she’d left behind in that past life and what she’s still carrying with her. You see how JT came into her life, how much he changed it and her, and get a real sense that there is unfinished business between them.
Left without a sitter, this single mum is forced into taking her daughter on the job with her. Lori’s frequent use of the terms Momma, sweetie and sweetheart irritated me while reading but you can forgive these in light of the situation and mounting pressures. Taking your kid to work rarely works out that well for either parent or child but here it is, unsurprisingly, an unmitigated disaster, ramping up the time-sensitive sense of danger that accompanies the child exploitation case in which Lori quickly finds herself embroiled.
Even if you’ve caught yourself thinking that there was something creepy about theme parks and the characters in costume who roam them, that’ll be nothing to how you feel about them after reading Deep Down Dead. The sugar-coated sickly front for far more evil goings-on behind the painted props and crumbling scenery is sinister and disturbing, something Steph Broadribb cleverly highlights by having Lori chase down a lead in the midst of bustling daytime crowds in a busy Winter Wonderland theme park: the distance between innocence and evil is as insubstantial as the fake candy cladding of park attractions.
It’s hard to believe that Deep Down Dead is Steph Broadribb’s debut novel; it’s a slick, fast-moving race against time with a whip-smart sassy female bounty hunter at its heart. Lori Anderson’s a very immediate character which is good because she won’t hang around long enough for you to warm to her, and she probably doesn’t care that much whether you do or not. She’s constantly on the move, her mind racing as much as your heart will be, and you’ll need to keep up with her as she heads off on what should be a simple collect and deliver job but which doesn’t turn out to be anywhere near as straightforward, careering off into a high octane road trip around the south-eastern states of America. It’s a cracking start to what promises to be an interesting and lively series with a terrifically ballsy heroine. Just remember to breathe when Lori does – or, at the very least, when you close the book for the final time.
Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb is the first in the Lori Anderson series and is published by Orenda Books. It is available as an ebook and in paperback and you can buy it from Amazon UK, Foyles, Hive (supporting your local independent bookshop) and Waterstones. You can find out more about Steph and her books on her Author Website or Follow Steph on Twitter.
My thanks to Orenda Books for sending me a copy of Deep Down Dead to review.
Be sure to check out Books, Life and Everything (today’s other stop on the Deep Down Dead blog tour) and the other great book blogs participating in the #DeepDownDead Blog Tour: