Book Review: 'EXPOSURE', by Aga Lesiewicz. Tues 25/07/2017
The first book by author Aga Lesiewicz, entitled ‘Rebound’, was a dark and gripping psychological thriller received to high praise upon release. The author follows this with another crime thriller to great anticipation.
Set against the backdrop of trendy, hipster London, the story follows Kristin, a young photographer who begins to receive anonymous and increasingly sinister emails. The messages contain private photographs and information known only to Kristin, making it obvious that her computer has been hacked. With every new email, her seemingly perfect life begins to unravel. Who is behind this, and how can she put a stop to it?
A great crime thriller will contain mystery, suspense, plot twists, a cast of fishy characters, plenty of 'red herrings', maybe a 'MacGuffin' or two. It will keep the readers guessing until the end. Ultimately, it will be well written, with a sound narrative structure and effective composition. Overall, this book does well to tick most of these boxes. However, there are a number of aspects which let the book down. The story begins well enough. As the narrative progresses, a number of random characters pop-up, all with possible nefarious motives, though not always convincing. But then the book descends into a relationship soap opera, as Kristin’s boyfriend Anton’s infidelity comes to light and the resulting break-up ensues. Although this presents the story with another couple of suspects (i.e. Anton and the women he is having an affair with), this segment of the book drags on insipidly. And the ironic thing is that, as the story develops, we seem to find Kristin falling for / wanting to go to sleep with almost every male character she meets. Just how much did she love and respect Anton in the first place if she gets over him this quickly?
Additionally, Kristin’s mood and demeanour go up and down like a yo-yo. There would be an incident to get her all wound up and worried. But then she would experience something that would have a “cathartic” effect on her. (‘Cathartic’ – a favourite word of the author’s). On Page 92, someone keys Kristin’s parked car leading to a “cathartic effect” on her mood (since, if that is the ultimate bad news of the day, then there is no need to feel anxious anymore). On Page 117, she is angry at her boyfriend’s unfaithfulness - gathering all his belongings into a box and “putting his essentials by the door feels cathartic”. On Page 117, after the latest occurrence, she settles down to work on a photography project, finding the “physicality of the shoot cathartic”. On Page 292, Kristin has her final face-to-face with her friend Sophie, who she cheated on with Sophie’s husband (i.e. apart from being potential killers, the primary function of most of the male characters in this book is as Kristin’s potential and literal love conquests). As Kristin is leaving, feeling dizzy, she is approached by a man, who hands over her dropped set of keys. Observing her distressed state, the man offers to hear her problems. “Wouldn’t it be liberating, almost cathartic, to spill my guts to a complete stranger?”, Kristen thinks. The same stranger who, a minute later, she is falling for. The same stranger who, 2 minutes later, she believes is the killer. (See above - i.e. the primary function of the male characters in this book)
On page 179, Kristin freaks out when noticing a speeding Respro-masked cyclist heading towards her. As the cyclist zooms by, she grabs his rucksack, causing him to crash down to the ground. After forcibly removing his Respro mask, she realises that she got the wrong guy. She makes some feeble excuse - and walks away. And that’s that! THE CYCLIST DOES NOTHING! Surely, in a normal situation, this would be grounds for assault, especially since a wino appears who witnessed the whole thing.
But the biggest mystery throughout the book is why Kristin does not report any of the crimes against her to the police? Your computer is hacked and personal files are stolen. Call the police. Someone graffiti sprays red paint all over your apartment windows. Call the police. You know the bike is stolen. Call the police. Simple! And what’s more mystifying is that since Kristin used to work with the police as a forensic photographer, one would think she would have friends on the force who would trust her, or at least those who would respect her enough to believe her if she were to report the crimes.
Finally, we have the Hollywood, twist-in-the-tale, ending. The author only now reveals the full details of the past, that the culprit was sleeping with Kristin during the time of their previous business venture. So, the killer is angry at having both their personal and working relationship come to an end. But even if the reader wasn’t privy to this information, Kristin knew this, so how clueless was she not to figure out who the culprit was. If not sooner, then at least at the moment the door is opened to Professor Stein’s apartment on Page 307? And since when did the culprit, who has devoted all available time and energy to become a huge career success, become a master computer hacker? The skills needed for the level of hacking that took place isn’t something you just learn part-time over a few years (it wasn’t evident before that the culprit had even basic skills in software programming).
Clearly a lot of hard work has gone into writing this story. The book is well researched – it showcases the author’s knowledge of London, and includes appropriate technical vocabulary related to photography and computer software systems. Plus, I think the author was looking to break the record for the amount of different alcoholic drinks mentioned in a single fictional book. However, the increasingly far-fetched and unrealistic situations, and in particular the tame ending, prove to be a let-down.