Breathe – Cari Hunter

Why have I never read Cari Hunter’s books before? How did I miss them?

Jemima – Jem – Pardon is a Manchester paramedic with severe asthma and what she sees as the worst luck, both in her personal life and in her work, as the cases she’s sent to often turn out to be more serious than announced. I’m pretty sure these people are actually lucky she’s the one sent to take care of them but I’m not the one she needs to hear this from. On a rainy night (there’s a lot of rain in this story), she meets Rosie Jones, a police officer whose outlook on life is a lot more optimistic than hers. They meet again on another case, the death of a teenager and that’s when it all really starts.

First of all, I love that Hunter stuck to English English rather than some universal English (thank you Bold Strokes Books for letting it be), it gives the story a different flavor and tone. The atmosphere building was excellent. Reading is also a way of traveling and I love it when I get the feeling that I’m really « there ».

I don’t usually need to check the meaning of words and it was a little fastidious but totally worth it. The meaning was usually obvious in context so don’t let that stop you from reading. I just like to learn stuff on the way, from time to time. That’s how my mother taught me to read in English when I was a teenager: most of the time, you don’t need a dictionary, since if you keep stopping to check words, it gets boring really fast. Either the word is a common one and will come back later in the story and the context will make it understandable, or it’s not a common word and you probably won’t ever really need it.

Anyway. The whole plot around missing teens was well thought and intriguing, the action scenes were breathtaking (Jem is not the only one who needs to remember to breathe, at times). Yet what I enjoyed most was the characters. I enjoyed meeting Rosie and Jem most of all, and laughed out loud more than once at their dialogues, but I also liked Harriet, Ferg, Jem’s dad (I wish there had been more about her mum) and both women’s colleagues, and enjoyed disliking Steph.

There’s also something about the way Breathe is written that makes it very visual, I kept feeling like I was watching TV, or a movie. What it reminded most of, in its atmosphere, is Collateral, with Carey Mulligan.

It’s not always easy to explain why you like a book, what makes you give it five stars. Some books I love because they make me feel warm and cozy, others because they make me happy, others (especially adventure, sci-fi or fantasy) because they bring this excited energy I associate with childhood, this feeling of sheer freedom. Others, and this one falls into this category, because they make me feel my brain working, the cogs turning. In other words, they make me feel alive.

Cari Hunter wrote on her blog about Jemima Pardon graduating from a joke to a full-blown story and am I glad she did.


Breathe @ Bold Strokes Books

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