Five Minutes Alone by Paul Cleave

Five Minutes Alone is the brand new thriller from NZ author Paul Cleave. Five Minutes Alone features Theodore Tate and Carl Schroder, two already well-known characters by Paul Cleave, as the main protagonists.

After a very hard time for Theo Tate it seems things have finally turned for the better. His wife has finally woken after being in a coma for years. (Tate’s wife and their daughter got hit by a drunk driver and their daughter was killed during that accident.) After trying to make a living as a private detective for years Tate has now got his old job back as a detective with the Christchurch police.

Tate is paired up with Rebecca Kent who is scarred after previous events (read: Joe Victim) and who was Carl Schroder’s former partner.

For former detective Carl Schroder thing don’t look too well. The consequences for what he did got him kicked off the force. His existence is a sad one, his senses and emotions dulled by an inoperable bullet located in his head (read Joe Victim).

Tate and Kent are being called to a crime scene where a man’s body is found scattered all over the train tracks. It turns out the dead person is Dwight Smith, a vicious rapist who had recently been released from prison. They find Smith’s car nearby and all evidence seems to point to suicide. But their boss Hutton wants no loose ends and so Tate and Kent pay a visit to Kelly Summers, Smith’s last victim before he went to prison.

Summers seems very surprised but equally relieved to hear that the man who raped her ended up dead. She is very cooperative but some things don’t seem to add up for Tate yet they can’t proof Smith had any contact with Summers before his death.

Tate has to find out his wife Bridget is far from recovered, her mind playing tricks on her where she forgets that their daughter has died. Bridget is secretly afraid that her state will be taking a turn for the worse again soon.

Tate and Kent find evidence at the gas station where Dwight Smith used to work. A surveillance camera shows that Smith followed Kelly Summers in his car and so the theory of suicide is clearly dismissed and they know now Summers was at least involved in Smith’s death.

Events are taking a turn for the worse, as there is a vigilante in Christchurch who grants people who lost someone to a crime the opportunity to execute revenge by giving them five minutes alone with the culprit. And that is only the start of many problems for Tate…

Five Minutes Alone proves yet again what a master craftsman Cleave is when it comes to constructing thrillers with brilliant characterization. Cleave is getting his sympathetic protagonist Theo Tate into deep trying to do the right thing while also upholding the law. The pacing is extremely well executed enhancing the tension with every further page turned. There is more than one unexpected plot twist – many very tragic – to keep the readers on their toes.

Vigilante justice plays a central part in many of Cleave’s others books. In Five Minutes Alone Cleave handles the very intriguing though always controversial subject with great caution and empathy and shows how one false decision can cause small ripples to turn into a tsunami for all involved.

FMA is a definite must read for all thriller fans and the perfect diversion for those upcoming dreadful autumn days.

Five Minutes Alone by Paul Cleave

Atria Books, 464 pages, Published 21st October 2014