Its Own Defense by L. Hetzel – Book Review
Its Own Defense by L. Hetzel – Book Review
Publisher – Createspace
Pages – 368
Release Date – 29th April 2013
ISBN-13 – 978-1482793567
Format – ebook, paperback
I received a free copy of this book
Berlin Evers is Clarion County’s victim/witness advocate and she sees the effects of domestic violence on a daily basis. What no one knows is her personal history of abuse, filled with dark secrets and shocking trauma. When she sees victims try and fail to leave abusive relationships, she takes it very personally.
Brian Malloy hasn’t been a detective in Clarion for long when he begins to suspect a serial killer in town. He has always felt admiration for Berlin, but it turns into something more when they finally meet on a case. He begins to try to impress her with tales of hunting down a serial killer, unaware that his suspect is much closer than he realizes.
Its Own Defense is part psychological thriller, part dramatic discourse on domestic violence. Powerful and disturbing, it explores the ripple effects of violence in our society and stresses the importance of personal accountability.
Its Own Defense by Laura Hetzel is a high paced, intriguing novel that I think is a little like marmite – you’re either going to love it or hate it!
The novel follows our two protagonists, and switches between each person’s narratives. Berlin is a female witness advocate for domestic abuse victims, and Brian a male police detective. Brian is tasked with identifying a serial killer within the town who is preying on the abusers within domestic abuse cases, and as the killer keeps killing, will he realise the killer has been under his nose the whole time?!
Firstly, I just want to touch on the aesthetics of the book – it deserves such better cover art. The cover art would not appeal to me on a shelf or website, and I don’t feel it represents the story as well as it could. Also, the line spacing in the book is really large – it must have been 1.5 or 2.0 line spacing, which personally isn’t my ideal. Anyhow, never judge a book by its cover!
My opinion on the novel fluctuated throughout – at times, I thought it was such a strong story, and at others, the plot flaws frustrated me deeply (I REALLY need to stop getting so emotionally involved in the books I read!). From almost the opening page, you realise that Berlin is the serial killer – not exactly *spoiler alert* worthy seeing as it is so blindingly obvious by a few pages in – so the novel isn’t a ‘who done it?!’ kind of novel as I originally thought it would be. Instead, we follow Berlin through her actions, see her describe past events, flashbacks and reveal her inner most secrets.
In alternating chapters, we follow Brian, as he struggles to piece together the extremely obvious clues that all point to Berlin. This is probably the point of the book that frustrated me the most – IT’S BLOODY OBVIOUS BRIAN! For me, it made Brian come across as kind of slow or unintelligent – or maybe it’s meant to be an accurate representation of the American police force, in which case: uh oh.
That aside, I actually really enjoyed the storyline – I liked Berlin as a character 80% of the time (the other 20% she just seemed completely pyscho) – and I think the book deals with a controversial and difficult subject well. It is rather graphic on the domestic abuse, so could be upsetting or potentially triggering for some readers. Whilst it does have very positive elements within it, and I could easily see how it could help someone in an abusive relationship, I would definitely recommend readers proceed with caution.
In terms of how the book read, apart from the large line spacing as mentioned before, the book was pretty easy to read. The only points I’d like to note would be that Berlin and Brian are rather similar both aesthetically and verbally – more distinctive names would have been preferential for me. Also, around the middle of the book, it begins to repeat certain sentences. I almost feel as though maybe a few things were chopped and changed around in the editing process, but then forgot to get edited out. I’m not sure… but it bugged me. I’d be like – didn’t I just read this?
Overall, I rate this book a 3/5. I did enjoy the storyline, and was always looking forward to picking up the book, but it isn’t something I’d recommend to everyone due to the sensitive nature of the story, and the flaws I’ve discussed above kept nagging in my mind whilst I was reading.
Book reviewed by Jodie. K
Laura Hetzel’s debut novel, Its Own Defense, was published in April, 2013, and has been the subject of newspaper articles in both the Washington/Ozaukee County Daily News and The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Hetzel has been a guest on Lakeviews with Libby Collins on 94.5 The Lake, discussing domestic violence and how events from her personal life informed the subject matter of Its Own Defense. Previous to this publication, Hetzel had self-published three poetry/short-story books, Open Your Dreams, Luna and Rust and Stardust, selections of which have been published in literary magazines and have won academic and editorial awards.
Hetzel has led seminars on writing and poetry for the Kettle Moraine Writers’ Conference and appeared on their Writers’ Panel. She currently resides in southeast Wisconsin.