Book Review: A Lesson In Violence by Jordan Harper


Author: Jordan Harper

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

Release Date: July 2017

A Lesson In Violence – published as She Rides Shotgun in the US – is the story of Polly, a precocious teenage loner who is unexpectedly picked up from school by her jailbird father, Nate, and whisked away from her life in a hotwired car, before being plunged into a vicious world of guns, drugs and neo-Nazis. A ‘greenlight’ has been issued by the Aryan Steel gang for the murder of parolee Nate – alongside his ex-wife and his daughter – and while the armed robber may not strike anyone as father-of-the-year material, he is all Polly has left…

A Lesson In Violence is a vigorous, intoxicating California crime thriller that cuts like a prison shank. The book ricochets between multiple points-of-views, adding depth to an already engrossing story. While the starkest juxtaposition is between Polly’s (initial) naivety and Nate’s brutal know-how, all of the richly imagined POVs help to flesh out the twist-filled story. Jordan Harper deals in cinematic prose, chopped down into short, punchy chapters. It suits his episodic storytelling approach perfectly, and gives the plot a jumpy, propulsive charge.

As someone who reads and enjoys a lot of crime fiction from independent publishers, A Lesson In Violence feels like a particularly important breakthrough, as it strikes me as one of the best examples of a big publisher embracing the aesthetics, values and energy of the small press scene.

Suffice to say: A Lesson In Violence is one of my favourite novels of the 2017. Believe the hype!

Review by Tom Leins

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