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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark, by Lisa Jewell

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Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark by Lisa Jewell is the first in a new series of crime thrillers by Marvel.  Private investigator and former super hero Jessica Jones is hired to investigate the sudden change in behaviour of a pair of twins.  Traveling to the UK, Jessica uncovers a plot to ‘make the world a better place’, without caring who gets hurt in the process.  Can Jessica unravel the mystery before it is too late?

Although based on the superhero comic book series Alias, Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark is a detective thriller.  At the core of the story is a delicious mystery that keeps the reader gripped until the final page.  Although her superpowered strength is acknowledged, there is little in the way of Jessica Jones using her abilities.  Instead, she relies on her wits and investigative skills.

The story is set in Marvel universe, without explicitly stating which particular universe (there are many).  Breaking the Dark feels aesthetically similar to Marvel’s former Netflix shows, as the novel includes appearances by Luke Cage and Danny Rand, but also characters from Alias.

‘She throws him what she really hopes is a kind smile, but she is also aware that kind smiles aren’t a part of her physical repertoire, and sure enough Gavin’s face drops, and he says, “You didn’t have to be so patronizing.  I was only trying to be friendly.”
Jessica breathes in hard, holding back the urge to really show him patronising.’

Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark, by Lisa Jewell

The novel is split into three sections, beginning and ending in Jessica’s native New York City.  It is in the second section, when Jessica travels to the UK, where the writing truly sings, as Jessica is very much a fish out of water.  Jewell wonderfully contrasts Jessica’s New York background with the provincial life of a traditional English village.

Flashbacks are peppered throughout the narrative, which soon identify the main villain of the story.  Whilst the flashbacks partly remove some of the book’s sense of mystery, it remains a fascinating tool for exploring the villain’s motivations. Reading the flashbacks first before reading the rest of the book could be an interesting exercise.

Breaking the Dark’s overarching themes are used to explore a variety of subjects, from social media to teenage life.  This fitted well with the story, but lacked subtly on occasion.  However, the choice of themes makes it a down-to-earth and relatable story.  We do not know how it feels to be superstrong, but we all know what it is like to be a teenager.

One of the elements of Breaking the Dark is the use of mind control against Jessica.  The experience of this is used to explore Jessica’s past trauma from when it was previously used against her.  However, the use of mind control also feels derivative of what has come before.  It would have been interesting to see Jessica encountering a different form of coercion.

“What sort of clothes do his fans wear? What do they look like?”
He looks her up and down, at the black-on-black-black outfit she wore to meet Amber, and shrugs.  “Kind of like you, I guess,” he says. “Except young.

Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark, by Lisa Jewell

Breaking the Dark is an incredibly well written thriller, with an awesome mystery at its centre and some distinctly unsettling moments.  Humour is carefully used to contrast these darker points with moments of levity.  Lisa Jewell obviously knows and loves the character, portraying Jessica Jones faithfully and honestly.

Overall, Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark is a fantastic debut novel for the Marvel Crime imprint.  Although set within the Marvel universe, it remains sufficiently accessible for all readers.  The core mystery is carefully unravelled and the characters are realistically portrayed.

The forthcoming Marvel Crime novels Luke Cage (written by S.A. Cosby) and Daredevil (written by Alex Segura), have had a high bar set for them by the strength of this novel and it will be interesting to see how they develop.

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Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark is a fantastic debut novel for the Marvel Crime imprint.  Although set within the Marvel universe, it remains sufficiently accessible for all readers.  The core mystery is carefully unravelled and the characters are realistically portrayed.Jessica Jones: Breaking the Dark, by Lisa Jewell