Most novels set in the future have some element of distance to them, where the technological advancement or dystopian elements are so far removed from the present that the book becomes escapist in nature. However, there are also those books, like The Policewoman by Justin Roberts, that paint a portrait of the world that may lie in our not-so-distant future. The dramatic, over-the-top elements of this novel are certainly evidence of the author trying to make an impact, but there is still a grisly realism to the tale that will leave readers haunted and jumpy long after they finish the last page.
In a world controlled by savage drug cartels, who produce, distribute and kill seemingly at will, it takes only the hardest and most dedicated officers to put their lives on the line to stop the chaos. Sarah is the unexpected heroine in this brutal tale, a highly trained special operative working in Densus-88, an antiterrorist task force that takes no prisoners. However, early on, she is reassigned to aid in the takedown of the Irish cartel, one of the most notorious and merciless groups in the global drug scene. While she may be the best woman for the job, she must take her skills to the next level, and put them into life-or-death practice, particularly when targets falls on her own back and the lives of those she holds dear.
The backstory of the characters and the drug cartels is incredibly thorough and engaging, and the novel crisscrosses the globe in a tangled story that must have taken an extreme amount of research. From the dialects of the characters to the occasional splashes of local flavor and detail, Roberts spares no word or clever allusion. This diligence draws readers into the story; they can smell the streets of Indonesia, hear the clamor of Manchester, and sense the tension in every meticulously crafted conversation. The tactical knowledge and special forces background is apparent in the narrative, which makes the entire story all the more believable. The personalities of Sarah’s new team are also carefully designed, and the author takes time to make each of them stand out.
In a 500-page novel, there is room for ample world-building, and although these are places and issues that we recognize from the real world, there is also a sharp fictional edge that provides the necessary entertainment value. Roberts has a firm grasp on the mindset of an officer of the law, as well as insight into the minds of madmen. This omniscient awareness of what makes for a believable character, scene, plot elevation or interaction is why an appreciative reader will tear through this book. The ominous nature of the plot – namely the similarities to certain devolving drug issues in the real world – also make this a timely and prescient book that will send an occasional shiver up your spine.
Unfortunately, the cover is not at all representative of the quality of the novel itself. As an ambitious reader, if you’re willing to dig into a hefty tome, invest heavily in brilliantly original characters, and take a thrilling ride towards an ending you’ll never see coming, then pick up The Policewoman by Justin Roberts – an epic and rewarding read.