Longhurst’s debut mystery-thriller revolves around a team that protects lottery winners in the United Kingdom.
An oft-quoted proverb/curse, “May you live in interesting times,” may as well be the unofficial motto of Veronica Doyle, the protagonist of Longhurst’s novel. As this twisty tale demonstrates, however, things are rarely so interesting that they can’t get more so. As the story begins, Doyle is living in a poorly maintained London flat and undergoing therapy for her involvement in a bank robbery six months prior. The only success in her life comes from her job as a lottery-winner protection agent for Avalon, the managing firm of the United Kingdom’s national lottery. When a truculent, shady couple becomes her latest clients, a serendipitous real estate opportunity in her home village of Storr Downs allows her to place her clients in a new life while revisiting her old one. Old wounds still hurt, though, and on top of her homecoming issues, Doyle finds the lives of her clients, colleagues and loved ones intersecting in new, unpredictable ways. Told from Doyle’s snarky but wounded viewpoint, Longhurst’s well-modulated plot pushes forward briskly. Some of the transitions between sections are abrupt, and not every plot thread is resolved along the way—Doyle’s brother, whose death as a young man shaped her life in numerous ways, isn’t brought into focus, and the ending scene at his grave doesn’t punctuate the narrative definitively. In addition, some side plots weigh more heavily than their presence warrants, such as the bad blood between Doyle and her former best friend. However, the vivacious characters and highly detailed specifics of English culture and geography provide texture and warmth that overcome the loose plot threads.
Between the fully realized setting and complex heroine, Longhurst’s novel adeptly juggles the plot threads into a briskly moving tale that’s one part thriller and two parts family drama.