Betrayal by Sharon Brownlie
I didn’t know what to expect when I downloaded an eBook version of Sharon Brownlie’s Betrayal. I expected the book to be somewhat depressing, given the brief description of the story’s background. And, indeed, the story is quite dark. But it is also a delightfully written story about one person’s attempt to right the wrongs she believes she’s suffered.
While many readers focus on the character of Helen King, the wrongs she’s suffered, and the terrible retribution she takes to get revenge on those who betrayed her, I prefer to focus on the other characters of the story: Detective Inspector Belinda Brennan, Acting DI Bobbie Ellington, and DS Renton. Set in 1980’s Edinburgh, the characters come alive with personality, conflicts, strengths, and failings. Here’s why I loved these characters so much.
All of them are foils for Helen King’s personality. No, they are not perfect opposites of Helen’s desperate and outraged violence. They all have their own flaws, and that’s what makes them viable opponents of Helen King, as well as for each other.
DI Belinda Brennan is fighting for her place in a man’s world, in a profession that many men didn’t believe had a place for women. She shows a toughness, even a rudeness, that is refreshing to watch. She earns the reader’s respect by her tenacity and drive. My kind of woman!
She has to work with DS Renton, a rising star in the police department, someone who exhibits “male privilege” that was so apparent at that time. Yet, Renton is also an enigma. He also has had to struggle to get where he is, and he also has his secrets to bear. I loved the way Brownlie was able to eventually tie him into the complex web of betrayals that Helen King faced in her youth.
American transplant Bobbie Ellington is a delightful character. Brownlie does a good job of actually contrasting American and Scottish values and attitudes, making Ellington not only believable, but enhancing the other characters in the story.
Sharon Brownlie used several techniques to make her characters believable. The first and foremost among these was the use of dialect and dialog. Scottish idioms and colloquialisms made you feel right at home in Scotland. The use of accent was delightful and very well done.
I also enjoyed Brownlie’s ability to bring scenes and locations to life. Part of making a story believable is ensuring that the reader can “see” the locale in which the story takes place. Edinburgh came alive in Betrayal, as much so as did the characters.
Overall, this is a hard-hitting, tough story to read. Helen King is not a nice person, not someone you can easily root for. And while I get the impression that Sharon Brownlie regards her as a “heroine,” I find myself thinking that her retribution far outweighed the suffering she had as a child. This is a book that will make you think about what constitutes the good and bad in people.
As a writer, I was intrigued by how Brownlie took an unsympathetic character and made her into someone the reader actually roots for. She did it by building into Helen King several attributes that actually are rather favorable in a protagonist: determination, cunning, perseverance. She also did it by making the characters who opposed King be very believable. Not perfect. Not super-human. But real.
Those are the types of characters that would do well in a sequel.