Book review: I, Witness by Niki Mackay

4/5 stars

Audible version, narrated by.. a whole bunch of people.

This is the story of a young woman  – Kate – just released from prison, where she served time for killing her best friend Naomi at a party 6 years earlier. However, Kate is not convinced she actually committed the crime (she doesn’t really remember what happened that evening due to trauma and substance abuse) and sets out to clear her name, to get a clean slate. She hires PI Madison Attalee, former police officer and the woman who first talked to Kate at the crime scene 6 years earlier.

I adored Madison from the get-go. She’s the typical hard-boiled PI with a good heart buried under the tough exterior, but somehow she manages to completely defy cliché, and feels like a real, larger than life person right from the start. She’s of course flawed, but all her mistakes in the past seem understandable and don’t make her any less likeable IMO. She’s tough, she’s fair, she’s kind, she’s interesting. And from what I understand (this book being referred to as Madison Attalee #1 on Goodreads) there’s more Madison to come. Which I for one am excited about – count me in!

So, back to the story. Kate moves back to her home town, something Naomi’s mother is none too happy about, so she sets out to ruin Kate’s life as she perceives Kate ruined that of her daughter. And Kate’s family don’t seem too thrilled about her return either. Her father cut contact with her shortly after she was arrested, her brother has only sent her letters seemingly out of duty, and her sister is in a mental institution.

There’s a pretty big cast of varied characters here, most of which are hiding something, which makes it quite interesting. You get chapters from different POVs, the main ones being Kate and Madison. These are also the most fleshed out characters, though I think Mackay did a good job of giving everyone a believable personality and kept characters from getting two-dimensional.

You can guess at some things and you may be right, but I definitely did not think it was easy to figure the whole thing out early on, as it was cleverly written and there were some good twists. I did however figure out the last twist fairly early, in fact I had a suspicion in that direction almost from the beginning, but that didn’t really ruin anything.

I thought this was a really enjoyable and solid crime novel, even more impressive given that it’s a debut. And my two biggest crime novel pet peeves were mostly avoided: random crazy person kills people because they’re crazy (no real motivation or explanation), and characters doing extremely dumb and reckless stuff like going to confront the killer without telling anyone where they are.

There were a couple of times when the timing of things was off (like saying something happened x time ago and then y time ago) – I thought first it might be that I wasn’t paying proper attention to the audio book so I rewound a few segments but it still didn’t really make sense. Not a huge deal though. It’s a very strong 4 and I’d definitely recommend it, the only other minor thing I have to say against it was that I felt it got a bit rushed during the last bit.

A note on the narration: there were different narrators for the different POVs, which I thought worked fine for the most part. My favourite was the woman who narrated Madison – she really sounded the part. My problem was that the male narrator towards the end of the book was super sarky and made like really whiny voices when he was narrating what the other characters said. I can sort of understand why, it does fit the character, but it definitely partly ruined the suspense for me during what was one of the more suspenseful parts of the novel.


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