An exciting plot, authentic sense of place and well-drawn characters that jump off the page; combine this with laugh-out-loud humour and Brake Failure is a book you just can’t put down!
Expecting to live in Paris after her marriage to Edward, Ruby is gutted to find herself in Kansas. To begin with she is the perfect English lady and her new friends love her accent and assume she knows all about the Queen and Princess Diana – when they ask for details she makes it up as she goes along, with hilarious results.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments, such as the evening spent entertaining Edward’s client when she acquires all the dogs, and the argument with ‘Mr Frosty’; there are also serious issues underneath the humour, particularly Ruby’s emotionally abusive childhood.
We are given Ruby’s backstory gradually throughout the book; in fact, Alison keeps us guessing to the very end. The device of working backwards from the bank robbery is very effective; we get chapters written from the perspective of the Police Chief in Kansas City after the bank robbery, alternating with Ruby’s story starting sixteen weeks earlier, until both strands meet and all the different pieces fit together.
It is wonderful to watch Ruby emerge from the constraints of her upbringing; she goes too far at first (hence the title) but eventually finds the right balance. At the beginning of the book Ruby is a prim and proper, uptight hypochondriac scared of her own shadow (and the Millennium Bug); by the end she has dyed her hair blonde, taken up with some ‘interesting’ new friends, broken several laws and found the love of her life. Thanks to Alison for the free copy of this book.