Book Review: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce

A damaged marriage, a toxic affair, a dark obsession. But you have absolutely no idea quite how dark.

Blood Orange, by Harriet Tyce is one of the most compelling I’ve read in a while. I didn’t move from my sofa from cover to cover. And when I looked up at the clock that read 4.00pm, I realised I’d read for six hours solid. Like a moment away from the book would change the ending or the pages would appear blank if I were to set it down.

Alison is a London-based criminal barrister, with a minor drinking problem, a fragile marriage and a raunchy love affair. She has a habit of self-destructive behaviour and having one bottle of wine too many. Thankfully, I can already navigate most of the terminology and procedures, having sat in crown court myself. Albeit at the press desk – not the bench – or the dock for that matter.

Alison is given her first murder case by secret lover and colleague Patrick – an excuse to spend more time together. But as she embarks on the journey, there are more dark twists than you can dare to dream.

The barrister agonises over her guilt – of cheating on her doting husband and neglecting her daughter during nights out and hangovers. Each time she tells herself it’s the last time. One night, Patrick pushes Alison a little to far, which is where the book takes a menacing turn down a rabbit hole there’s no coming back from. Someone knows about their forbidden romance, and sends threatening anonymous texts to Alison, adding weight to her shoulders.

But one thing she does have to keep her mind in focus is the murder case. Her client, Madeline, is on trial for murder – murdering her husband. I was worried the book would become predictable, when I successfully guessed said husband was an abuser. But each subsequent ‘oh, I bet ….. happens’, was way off. But Madeline’s case helps Alison navigate her own toxic relationships – as fairly early as readers we recognise that doting husband Carl is – more often than not – gaslighting.

Carl is a psychotherapist specialising in male sex addiction, and rather the dark horse of the book. He wants the best for their daughter, Matilda, but seems to blame Alison for everything that goes wrong in their relationship. There’s one poignant moment in Brighton where there’s a real Coronation Street Geoff/Yasmine moment with a dress, where we learn Carl is not the lovely husband we all thought.

Blood Orange covers all bases – betrayal, control, addiction, and obsession. But nothing can prepare you for the final quarter of the book. The fast paced prose will have you flicking through the pages to discover the shocking twists that left me audibly gasping. There’s the outcome of the affair, a sketchy rape charge, the truth behind the murder charge – and the final ‘Twist de Resistance’ that you won’t see coming. There will be so many plots where you think ‘is this it? is this the big twist?’ and you’d be wrong. Just wait and your jaw will hit the floor.

You can find reviews of other books I’ve read here.

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