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Company Town by Madeline Ashby. Book Review

Company Town

Go Jung-Hwa (or Hwa, as she is better known) works as a bodyguard on a floating city organised around an oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland. She is never short of work. So when Joe Lynch, the youngest member of a powerful business dynasty receives death threats, Hwa is called upon to protect him. But there is something very sinister at work in the place Hwa calls home, as her friends are being picked off one by one. Can she manage to protect Joel, and solve the ongoing crimes before they escalate out of control?

Most people have a pretty good idea of what an oil rig looks like and that they can be very large. Now imagine one that’s the size of a city and you have Hwa’s world.

Hwa has a condition that affects her appearance, as well as making her prone to epileptic seizures and other health problems. Her imperfections repulse her mother and Hwa is the subject of frequent parental abuse. But this has made Hwa is very self-contained and driven to become the best in her field, with the result she is a highly respected bodyguard. Her condition also means she is one of the rare humans not to have undergone any form of augmentation.

Madeline Ashby has given Hwa real heart and soul and is character who is remarkably non-judgmental, preferring to take people as they come. Unless they do something she considers immoral, like beating up or killing the innocent.

Added to this Hwa creates some very strong bonds of close friendship with the enigmatic Daniel Siofra, the head of security for the Lynch corporation and Joel Lynch, for whom Hwa acts as a bodyguard. You are never quite sure where Daniel is coming from, because he has the kind of past that intrigues (as well as being a person of great attraction to the resistant Hwa) and Joel is far from the spoilt brat of a corporate mogul.

There are also some great characters like Mistress Séverine, the head of the sex workers’ union as well as downright and very colourful criminals.

These are indeed writ large from the get-go, with spot on description “All these years later, he was still a pallid, fishlike man, with a weird gawping mouth and almost colourless eyes.”

But when a story beings with the same kind of wise-cracking you might find in a gumshoe novel (“Hwa wondered if today was the day she would finally get to finish that sorry son of a bitch once and for all.”), and the rhythm of the narrative jitters and slews harmoniously alongside dialogue that zings, you know that this is not just a solve-crime-by-numbers type of book, and you’re in for a great read.

Company Town is one of those cases in genre writing where the craft of the author brings as much pleasure to the reader as the fast-paced plot; and that is a skill not easy to achieve.

This is a great story. So if you like crime and haven’t tried any science fiction or speculative writing, this book is a good place to start, because it is primarily a crime novel with a pacy thriller element thrown in for good measure.

Company Town is definitely a book you will want to come back to more than once, to relive Hwa’s world and adventure all over again.

Company Town was courtesy of Tor Books via NetGalley

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