Kirsten Calloway's life seems complete: with a happy marriage, talented teenage daughter and a fulfilling job in the NHS, she really does appear to have it all. But, while she loves her teacher husband, Mark, and has no desire to leave him, there is a problem: very little excitement, and a completely barren sex life.
Things come to a head when Kirsten attends an ill-advised school reunion. Memories of her first love are rekindled and bring into focus her current loneliness and frustration. When an old school friend reveals she uses an upmarket agency to arrange casual sex - and what’s more, it has done wonders for her marriage - it’s not long before Kirsten signs up.
Enter Zac, seemingly the answer to Kirsten's prayers: young, handsome and a thrilling lover, like her he has no desire to end his marriage. Kirsten revels in her new-found sexuality and for a while life has never felt so good. As the affair snowballs, juggling marriage, work and family with this sexual freedom becomes increasingly tricky, but still she is reluctant to give it up. Until Zac starts to want more. A lot more. Rapidly things start to spiral out of control, with fatal consequences ...
RJ McBrien attended York University, the Sorbonne and graduated from the Yale School of Drama. He writes for TV (Wallander, Spooks and Trust for ITV) and has sold scripts to major Hollywood studios, for whom he regularly works as a script doctor. Reckless is his first novel.
The idea of exploring the shadowy world of 'affair' agencies has been with author RJ McBrien for a long time - first coming to his attention (for research purposes!) back in the early 200s, and then being revisited first as a potential tv series, and now as a novel. The agency forms the main thrust over how this plot unfolds - and it's a fascinating one to choose - the initial decision to have an affair making lead character Kirsten initially rather unlikeable, but the authors skilful writing allows her character to come through well - the consequences of her decision taking her to extremely dark places that, whilst obviously upsetting for Kirsten, make fantastic reading.
This is a thriller that kept me guessing throughout - and whilst it is sexually charged (in the sense that Sex is the thing that spurs on the plot here), it doesn't feel gratuitous, and Kirsten's sexual frustrations and gratifications are key elements of the action.
R.J McBrien has mentioned that he was cautious in utilising a female narrator, but Kirsten feels very much like a well rounded person rather than a caricature - and the decision to have this thriller revolve around a woman having agency over her sexual impulses is rather refreshing - if this had been written with a man in the lead I daresay it'd feel like a very different kind of book altogether. There can often be a danger for thrillers to become rather over the top and silly, but there is a sense of realism here that keeps things grounded - it's fast paced and thrilling, yes - but it never goes out of the realms of possibility - with that sense of realism perhaps coming from R.J. McBrien's experience as a screenwriter for film and tv - and it certainly feels like this could be a tv show itself - a sexy and divisive piece in the vein of Apple Tree Yard perhaps.
Many thanks to MidasPR for a copy of the book
‘A fox could be a shape-shifter, a spirit being. It could appear in human form if this suited its purposes; it could come and go as it pleased, play tricks, lead men astray.’
In Hackney, gigging filmmaker Nina has a fox problem in her garden. Actress Holly is implicated in the fallout of a scandal. Paul, an English tutor, gets too close to an oligarch. And Sebastian, a freelance journalist, hides a devastating secret.
Portraying the young and mobile in a world of hustle, In the Time of Foxes takes the fox as its spirit animal. Gritty and surprising, the stories range from London to Spain, Moscow to Hong Kong, revealing the shapeshifting that goes on in modern life.
Showing the short story collection at its most compelling and rewarding, In the Time of Foxes is deeply insightful about the times in which we live. It introduces Jo Lennan as an irresistible new storyteller.
Jo Lennan is the author of In The Time of Foxes, a collection of short stories published by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
Jo was born in coastal New South Wales, Australia, and studied in Sydney and Oxford.
She has worked as a lawyer, university lecturer and writer, contributing features on law, the environment, theatre and the arts to Time Magazine, The Economist, 1843 and Australia’s The Monthly.
Her fiction and reportage have featured in the Best Australian Stories and Best Australian Essays anthologies, as well as literary journals The Junket and Meanjin. She has attended writers’ residencies at the Normal Mailer Centre in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Varuna in the Blue Mountains, NSW, and the Residencia Internacional de Arte, CanSerrat, Barcelona.
In The Time of Foxes is her first book.
I do not have the words to describe to you how much I love foxes - I've got fox shirts, fox jumpers, and a large fox tattoo on my right arm. As a country boy living in London, I'm forever delighted by bumping into urban foxes - beautiful, clever creatures that cleverly survive no matter the environment they are thrown into.
So when I received this collection of short stories that are weaved together by the mercurial and mischievous fox, I was delighted - and this debut collection suggests that Jo Lennan is a seriously talented voice to look out for in the future.
I love a short story collection - but often find myself disappointed by a strong first tale and poor subsequent ones, or by bad pacing that results in me wishing that a short story could be expanded into a longer form novel.
Lennan has great skill in crafting tales that sparkle and glow for their short duration, but do not outstay their welcome - and whilst the tales may have similar themes in terms of their focus on survival and power, they have disparate settings and uniquely individual characters who Lennan brings to life in a few short paragraphs - ensuring a constant sense of delight throughout. The stories do work wonderfully well on their own, but also this is a beautifully put together collection - they function brilliantly as a whole, with the fox the reader's guide through these fascinating snapshots of lives.
I'd love to see a novel from Lennan - and immerse myself in her words for longer - but ultimately she's a hugely skilled crafter of the short form story, and I'd be very glad of the chance to visit more of her tales - hopefully guided by her vulpine companion
Many thanks to Midas PR for the copy