Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
Jane Smith, not her real name but it will do, is passed a note by a barista which leads her to a storage unit. Inside is a rare taxidermied hummingbird and another clue. The bird was left to her by a suspected eco-terrorist, now dead. The mystery intrigues Jane, who works as a security consultant and has access to dig further.
I was a bit disappointed in Hummingbird Salamander, I really liked the idea of a cli-fi themed mystery to solve, starting with a hummingbird as a clue, but not enough other clues followed for me to feel like I knew what was going on. The reasoning for Silvina leaving the trail for “Jane” felt anti-climactic, followed by an ending that seemed disconnected to everything else. Not to mention I didn’t really understand anyone’s motivations for getting involved so far, not when so much was at risk.
Jane’s job is the first casualty as she uses the pretence of a new client to justify her digging into Silvina’s past. It didn’t make sense to me why her boss and colleagues accepted this. Is it normal to just pick a person and then do research on their dead daughter to get their business? I’d assumed Jane was in cyber security, but maybe it was more than that.
Then her colleagues are in danger, then her family, who she seems to care very little about on the trail of a bunch of clues that didn’t mean much. There are flashbacks to her childhood, trigger warning here for child abuse, and snippets from Silvina’s journal, which are meant to give context but I wonder if I missed some subtlety.
I did enjoy the fact that Jane is mostly a regular person who isn’t really cut out to get involved with the kind of dangerous people she encounters. She was once a wrestler, so she’s strong enough, and her job means she knows how to dig, but she doesn’t have connections and when she is attacked, she is actually hurt for longer than a day.
Her trusty handbag is named Shovel Pig, a name intended as an insult by a colleague, she adopts it instead and the handbag gains a kind of personality. I was much more invested in the fate of Shovel Pig than the actual mystery.
At least it was trying to make a point. We are losing species every day, and there’s little we can do in the face of big, corrupt, business. Silvina did her best to rail against her father, but even that wasn’t enough.
Hummingbird Salamander is published by Fourth Estate and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 15th April 2021. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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