Iain Ryan’s Harsh Recovery, the second book in his Tunnel Island series, has been on my TBR list since I read Drainland (review) several weeks ago. Harsh Recovery begins a few months after Drainland ends, with the two main characters struggling with addiction and the moral ambiguity of the island. If you have not read the first book, be aware that there are Drainland spoilers aplenty in Harsh Recovery, probably in this review as well. There are no spoilers for Harsh Recovery, though. If you have not read Drainland, go back and do so, but come back and read Harsh Recovery as it is even better than Drainland — something I thought not possible.
Scroll past the white space to read the rest of the review, you know because of the spoilers I mentioned.
Scroll some more.
And just a bit more.
Hash Recovery opens with Laura Romano and Jim Harris, two cops acting as judge, jury and executioner of the Rep Brothers. The police and criminals — there is not much difference between the two on this fictional Australian island — tolerate quite a bit as far as crimes and misdemeanors go, but messing with tourists and children just does not fly.
In the first few pages of Harsh Recovery, Romano, still stuck on Tunnel Island and having to spy on Harris, is now fully vested in cleaning up the island.
Killing the Rep Brothers had been her idea.
The mob brought them in to do the work even bad men wouldn’t go near. The Brothers killed women and children. They desecrated people. They maimed and tortured. They had to go.
The beginning chapters catch the reader up on the goings on of Tunnel Island after the barge ride in Drainland, some of the criminals killed and additions to the Merry Band of Vigilantes. Then a body is found along the beaches, a body that has barely survived the ravages of the sea, but is recognizable to Harris as a woman who helped with the Drainland cleansing. While Harris is re-energized in participating as an actual police officer and investigating the apparent murder, Romano gets a message from Matt Dyer, the cop who sent her to Tunnel Island to snitch on Harris. She is required to spy on someone else.
Romano is still actively battling her demons of alcohol and drugs and the recovery has not been easy for her. Romano’s sickness leaves her strung out, wanting to drink, and wondering why after months of being clean that it is hitting her so hard.
Romano stopped running. A crying jag got the better of her. She folded herself down into the sand and wept. With a shaky hand she took her reward cigarette from her shorts and lit it. The tears kept coming. She wasn’t sure who she was crying for anymore. She deserved all this. And the Rep Brothers got what they had coming to them. So these feelings made no rational sense. Instead, Romano started to wonder if she was crying for something else. It was a dark feeling but she felt something deeper for the bunker and the barrels. She thought about the bodies down there: so contained, so fixed, so sealed into place. Romano thought about how quiet death must be.
When I finished reading Drainland I was actually excited about reading Ryan’s other books on Tunnel Island, but I was a little scared as well — Drainland was good, how could Harsh Recovery be better? It was. Ryan tells two stories in Harsh Recovery, Harris’ murder investigation and Romano’s stake out and has the reader moving easily between the two. There are stories to tell on Tunnel Island and I have a feeling the Ryan is just getting started. Harsh Recovery is a wonderous raucous read that tears apart the holiday postcards and shows us the debts accumulated and the deaths made in payment.