A TIME TO RUN by J.M. Peace

Police procedurals and I have a tenuous relationship. Countless times I’ve been lured in with a deceptive blurb or the ‘you must read this’ cries of a friend, only to remember halfway through that I find the detail of police procedurals too dense to stay interested. I’ve seen A Time to Run described as a police procedural, and to a certain extent it is, but it is expertly balanced with a gripping and thrilling mystery to solve and doesn’t get weighed down by the details. Basically, it’s a police procedural, but a really, really, really good one.

The author is a serving police officer and this brings a refreshing authenticity to the writing. This isn’t a non-cop author showing you all the things she knows about policing; it’s a no-nonsense, realistic account of how missing persons cases are investigated and it’s written by an author who demonstrates an accomplished writing style not frequently seen in a debut novel. Peace draws from what she knows to create a wonderful cast of police officers. While the story does regularly switch viewpoints, all but the viewpoint of the suspect is a cop’s perspective, even the victim who is a cop herself. Quite frankly, it’s pretty heavy shit. But it’s good shit. The kind that keeps you up all night, racing towards the finish line because you need to know what happens.

I was completely floored by the ending. I started crying from page 200-ish and didn’t let up until the end. The relief I felt when the case was closed (no spoilers, but obviously a case has to be closed) was palpable. I reacted a bit like this once I read the final word:

In A Time to Run, Peace has created two compelling and strong female voices. Sammi, the police officer who is abducted, is the kind of person you’d want in your ‘end of the world, the zombies are here’ squad. She’s resourceful, calm, and rational. She’s most certainly not a robot and she does demonstrate the array of emotions I suspect most abduction victims experience, but she’s cool-headed and her viewpoint sections are chillingly believable. She is adamant that she was targeted–there is no victim-blaming to find here, and this is a poignant tip of the hat to current events in Australia. (Hey, Sunrise, I’m looking at you.) The other important viewpoint cop, the cop on team Find Sammi, is Detective Janine Postlewaite. Janine is badass, and I found myself hoping that Peace drew on some of herself for this character. If I ever suffer the unfortunate fate of being abducted, I hope a detective like Janine Postlewaite tries to find me.

Readers from South East Queensland will have the added thrill of recognising suburbs and landmarks in the story. As a former resident of Brisbane, I found the locational familiarity to be super creepy. This could be anyone, maybe even someone I know, such is the way A Time to Run is written. If you like police procedurals, pick up this book. If you like strong female characters, pick up this book. If you like tense reads that grip you and don’t let you go, pick up this book. If you believe in the power of Australian authors, pick up this book. Heck, just pick up this book.

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