Frantic kicks off with a scene that invites you into understanding the frenetic pace of the lives of the couple, Chris (a police-officer) and Sophie (a parademic) and how much they put their own lives at risk when "on the job". To add to their pressures, Chris is working in a police force tainted with corruption; their marriage has had the cleaver of distance sliced through it; Sophie has been tempted by Chris's partner and friend Angus; and Sophie's mother-in-law is difficult and controlling.
Want to catch your breath as a reader?
Fat chance. Sophie arrives home to find that Chris has been shot on their doorstep and that their ten month old son, Lachlan has been abducted. As Chris lies in hospital and Sophie waits for news on whether he will survive, her guilt and instinct drive her out in search of her child, following her own leads and running the risk of ruining the police investigation.
Leading that police investigation is one Detective Ella Marconi who has been eagerly awaiting her big break and this is the case. She makes for an interesting character as a woman with a rather solitary lifestyle, dedicated to her job but overlooked for some time due to – well – too big a mouth. Even if the boss she upset is now retired, loyalties remain where male bonding provides the foundations.
Frantic is indeed a good title for this novel. The race is on to find Lachlan. The corruption element needs to be resolved. Sophie's actions may risk more than she realises. In essence, this is a fast paced plot based on deception that draws you in like a magnet from beginning to end.
I'd have to admit that, on times, I questioned Sophie's actions. Would a sensible mother really do that? But we have to remember that faced with certain extreme situations, we don't really know how we'd react ourselves, especially when shock kicks in.
As for authenticity, you can do no better than have a former paramedic set a novel around a paramedic. Howell's research into the police side of the plot brings comparable credibility. While you'd expect to be safe in the hands of both professions; you are also safe in the hands and pen of Howell when it comes to a gripping story.
Lastly, Howell's next novel The Darkest Hour, while focusing on a new paramedic Lauren Yates, will also have more of Ella Marconi. I warmed to Ella; she's a good package, with plenty of opportunity for future interesting character development.