Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Art of Breathing by Kate Evans is a crime fiction novel and the third installment in the Scarborough Mysteries series. It follows the lives of Hannah Poole, Detective Sargent Theo Akande, and Aurora Harris as they navigate mental health and family issues, as well as investigate crimes in their small town. Because this is the third book in a series, I’ll keep some aspects of my review vague to avoid spoiling details from the first two novels. You can read my review of The Art of the Imperfect (Scarborough Mysteries #1) here.
When I read The Art of the Imperfect, I remember thinking that the novel read more like literary fiction (or even an extended prose poem) than a typical crime novel. While I enjoyed the gorgeous language, I found it difficult to keep track of the details at times. In The Art of Breathing, Evans has struck the perfect balance between poetic language and crime fiction. The novel includes the time-honored tropes of the crime genre, but the writing itself retains that beautiful, lilting character that sets Evans’s work apart. As someone who doesn’t always like the gritty/punchy feel of crime novels, Evans’ style is perfect for me.
Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the plot is complete, intriguing, and comes with a few little twists (one of them is just … brilliant). However, even with a strong plot, I believe that the characters are the true jewel of The Art of Breathing. They are well-crafted and complex, and (as I’ll discuss below) serve as fantastic vehicles for Evans to explore important social themes. Where Evans’ character creation is particularly strong is their versatility – at times, they can be difficult to like (especially Hannah, with her self-destructive thoughts and behaviors), but they also elicit waves of empathy from the reader. A difficult task for a writer to accomplish.
In my own writing, I place a great deal of importance on examining social issues, so I really enjoy novels with strong thematic weight. The Art of Breathing, Evans manages to display both sides of several dark themes (sexual assault, adultery, murder, etc.) in a way that makes the reader question previously held assumptions. Her characters provide riveting case studies of mental health and social concerns (depression, PTSD, homophobia, racism, etc.), and after spending the novel with them, I truly felt like I came away with a better understanding of how people facing these issues live. That’s the power of great fiction – it deepens your perspective on reality and allows you to live other lives.
The Art of Breathing (and the rest of the Scarborough Mysteries series) isn’t your cookie-cutter crime fiction. It’s a study of human character, an examination of Western society, and a beautiful tribute to language … all wrapped up in a murder mystery. Strongly recommended for literary fiction readers who want a gentle entrance into crime fiction, and crime readers who are looking for a refreshing take on the genre.
Want to know more? Kate Evans was kind enough to drop by my website to describe how she uses her crime fiction to search for truth and delve into dark themes. You can read her insightful guest post here.
If you are interested in reading The Art of Breathing and would like to help sponsor my writing and research, you can purchase it through my Amazon Associates Store. By doing this, you will not pay a cent extra, nor will the author receive a cent less, but I will receive a small commission on the sale. Simply click the book’s title or the book’s image.