The most shocking book you’ll read this year it says on the front cover and that could well be true. At its heart, it’s a crime novel with the police trying to discover the identity of a serial killer who is murdering young boys. However, in complete contrast to today, it’s women who are in charge. They rule the roost, are in the top positions in the workplace and spend a fair bit time ogling the men. In a reversal of gender stereotypes, it’s the men who wear make-up and dresses, look after the children and see to the house.
In common with many crime novels, one of the main characters is a bit of a maverick, doing their own thing, with little regard for procedure. This is DCI Jane Wayne: hard-headed, no-nonsense and tough. Recently demoted for her inappropriate behaviour to colleagues she is not happy about now having to take orders from a man – and one who refuses to shave! “…he ticks all the diversity boxes …. male, single father, ugly…” Wayne’s style of policing reminded me of the Life on Mars TV series with similar sexist 70s attitudes. Except of course, these attitudes are sexist towards men rather than women. I have to say I didn’t particularly like Jane Wayne as she seemed very uncaring and unfeeling throughout but she did show a slightly warmer, more human side towards the end. I did, however, like DI Ben Campbell, the menimist struggling to make his mark in a woman’s world.
This reverse sexism makes it quite shocking and challenging read. I was constantly surprised when assumptions I had made about characters were proved wrong. For example one character is called Mother Maria. I assumed she was a nun but no. In this version of the Catholic Church, it’s women who are the priests and naturally called Mother rather than Father. Men are regarded as objects throughout the book in much the same way women have been, and often still are, and it seemed very strange to read how they are described.
Very strong language used throughout may mean this is not a book for everyone. I did find it quite shocking but I can see why the author was using it and she used it to great effect. Sometimes it made me smile, especially when there were newer expletives coined to reflect women being in charge but sometimes it made me uncomfortable. There is humour in the book too though and although it took me a while to figure out what it was, I laughed when I realised what a pra was for. And I’ll just leave you to work out what a pejazzle is!
Nailing Jess is a very unusual take on the crime novel which will certainly challenge your assumptions on gender norms. Murder, sexism, satire are all brought together in a clever, and fast-paced novel.
My thanks to the publishers, Cranachan Publishing, for my copy of the book. Nailing Jess will be published on 26th June in paperback and as an e-book. You can order a copy online here: Nailing Jess
From the back of the book