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Book Review: 'This is How It Ends', flip-flopping but enjoyable thriller

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The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, April 10, 2018  /  11:38 am
Book Review: 'This is How It Ends', flip-flopping but enjoyable thriller

'This is How It Ends' by Eva Dolan (JP/Devina Heriyanto)

Eva Dolan has written a psychological crime thriller with a strange twist.

While most stories involving crime and murder, like the Sherlock Holmes tales and Agatha Christie books, are whodunnits and "whydunnits", Dolan's This is How It Ends answers a totally different set of questions. A bit like Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the novel is primarily about the physical and mental implications of having committed murder.

The story takes place in lower-class London and also brushes on issues like gentrification and the socioeconomic problems of the lower class. Gentrification, the process of renovating and upgrading neighborhoods and districts, happens in big cities all around the world. However, many people do not agree with gentrification, because the process also has a dark side. The poor often fall victim to eviction and their property sold to line the salesman's pockets. In a nutshell, gentrification isn’t perfect.

Ella, the main character, is an anti-gentrification activist and blogger. Living in London, she is introduced to readers defending the remaining residents of an apartment from which most of its tenants have been evicted. Six of the originally 300 tenants are left in the apartment, and she is determined to continue squatting illegally in the building.

At the start of the book, she is in the middle of a party celebrating her book launch when the story suddenly shifts, and she ends up in the apartment below the party with a dead man. Confused, a little drunk and scared, Ella follows her instincts and calls Molly, a close friend. Molly arrives at the scene with Ella claiming self-defense. Molly, who is also drunk but more rational about the situation at hand, helps Ella hide the body by throwing it into the shaft of an out-of-service elevator. What happens next is the aftermath: a mix of guilt, fear and the paranoia of being discovered.

Read also: Book Review: Home Fire, thought-provoking read that questions morality

The story is delivered through two perspectives: Ella's and Molly’s, making it unique. Ella’s chapters delve into the time before the murder, while Molly’s chapters deal with what happens afterward.

Molly is described as an active campaigner who joins protests and riots – which are based on the real-life, historic protests of the Grenfell Tower fire. She took Ella under her wing following an incident where Ella was beaten up by a police officer in a peaceful protect escalating into a full-blown riot. Both Ella and Molly have a close, nearly mother-daughter relationship throughout the entire book. The murder has caused Molly to question many things about Ella. Her perspective is peppered with a lot of fast pace action and a good amount of tension.

While I really liked reading Molly’s chapters, Ella has been a lot harder for me to relate to. In her chapters, Ella was described as quite naïve, a girl with a PhD who comes from a wealthy family. Her personality is not really likeable, and the chapters were not very interesting. This is the flaw of using two differently progressing timelines. Readers are more eager to know about what happens after the murder, and with every switch of chapter, the high tension and the curiosity flips to something… slow. The frequent change to the story’s mood and atmosphere is quite infuriating.

But it’s the ending of this book that matters the most. Almost similar to a punch in the gut, it is something I never saw coming. The book has tied the ends of something that has no correlation to each other, and suddenly everything makes sense. If the reader is able to brave through Ella’s chapters, they’ll finally get the connection as to why the author chose to use two differently progressing timelines.

So while this book actually uses a realistic and unique way of telling a crime story, I suppose it still wasn’t very impactful for me. It was good to read in passing the time, it was not really deep, but still enjoyable nevertheless. (ely/wng)