Downside Up – Jane Thornley

*I received a free ARC of this book.  The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*

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Blurb:  Jenna’s back on the roof again. But she’s no longer a troubled child. This time she’s hunting a killer.

Jenna Elson has tried to escape her troubled past, but her uncle’s sudden death has brought her home to London.
The police have ruled the death accidental but Jenna’s aunt is screaming murder. Wheelchair-bound and as formidable as ever, Aunt Clair urges Jenna to play their old game of “be my eyes” and search for clues from her childhood refuge far above the city streets.

Though Jenna knows every chimney and every dormer of those Victorian rooftops, the night landscape has changed. Renovations and skylights have made spying on the neighbours easier—even addictive—but navigating her old sanctuary has become treacherous: a killer lurks nearby and nowhere is safe.
When Jenna’s sleuthing comes to a crashing end, leaving her memory damaged, she knows she’s lost something crucial amid her brain’s scrambled images. Dark revelations challenge her trust in those closest to her and danger is stalking her every step. But time is running out and Jenna must pull herself together before death strikes the final blow and takes everything she loves with it.

Downside Up is a murder mystery / crime thriller, with the added dimension that the main character is a secret ‘roofing’ addict.

Jenna spends a large portion of the plot either climbing or hiding around her neighbours’ rooftops, in her own spin on the parkour trend, which gives us a standard mystery plot, but from a different point of view than usual, which I found an intriguing twist on the standard.

This book also fulfils my main pre-requisite for a mystery novel, which is not being able to guess whodunnit.  I firmly believed the killer was a certain character throughout the story, and thought myself pretty damn clever for seeing past the author’s feints to work it out…so obvious!  Only to find out that I had been thoroughly red-herringed during the final reveal.  It’s very rare that happens these days as my instincts have been honed with practice, so it was a nice surprise to find that I can still be both hoodwinked and bamboozled.

I really enjoyed the characterisation here as well.  It was nice to see an orphan adopted by family members who are neither perfect saints, nor evil villains, but flawed people doing their best with what they have.  Aunt Clair in particular was a breath of fresh, if selfish and aggravating, air.

Downside Up is the first in a trilogy, so I am fascinated to see how Jenna’s character will develop now that this first, personal, mystery has been solved and her life course has been altered somewhat as a result.  I’m especially interested to discover if and, if so, how her roofing addiction will fit into further plots, as it struck me as something of a situationally-dependent skill!  I look forward to finding out in the next two installments…

Eyeing the drainpipe about two feet to her left, she estimated the distance, how far she’d have to spring, and where to brace her hands once she reached it.  No time for overthinking or miscalculations.  Climbing was all flash-decisions and calculated risks.

– Jane Thornley, Downside Up

Find more from Jane Thornley here, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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