Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australian (Trade Paperback – 29 March 2022)
Length: 370 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Impressive debuting Australian author Nina D. Campbell presents one of the most intense, captivating, and thought-provoking thrillers of 2022 so far, with the outstanding Daughters of Eve.
Detective Emilia Hart is a dedicated New South Wales homicide detective whose gender and experience often sees her regulated the domestic violence murders. When a prominent defence attorney is expertly shot in front of her, Hart jumps at the opportunity to investigate a high-profile case, despite opposition from her superiors. However, this proves to be no simple investigation, especially when a second dead man with similar bullet wounds is also found.
As Hart and her colleagues investigate, they struggle to find any connection between the two victims until more men start dying and the killer releases a brazen manifesto to the world. Claiming to be part of an organisation known as The Daughters of Eve, determined to tip the scales of justice once and for all, the killers reveal that their victims have been abusive men responsible for terrible acts against women. They also claim that they are only just getting started, and they soon ask the public to identify more violent men for them to hunt down.
As more bodies start to drop, chaos starts to reign across Sydney, especially when a series of copycat murders begin around Australia. Facing immense pressure from all around, Hart doggedly pursues the case, trying to find a link between the victims and the women they hurt. However, with angry male protestors storming the city and soldiers deployed on the street, Hart is unprepared for how much her world is about to change, especially as the killer may be closer than she ever realised.
Daughters of Eve was an exceptional and outstanding first novel from Campbell that really sticks out. Featuring a particularly powerful narrative that combines a terrific and clever mystery with some of the darkest elements of modern society, Daughters of Eve proves to be extremely addictive, and I actually ended up reading it in just one day once I got hooked on its powerful events.
I loved the intense and captivating murder mystery that this book contains, especially as it sets the protagonist down a moving and memorable rabbit hole. Daughters of Eve has an awesome start, with a sleezy defence attorney shot down by a sniper in the middle of Sydney right in front of the protagonist. This ensures her a key role in the investigation, and she quickly discovers that there is much more to the case, especially once more bodies drop with each of the victims identified as a potential abuser or rapist. This initial part of the mystery is very well written, with several key elements set up for later in the book, while the reader is left guessing with the various potential suspects or motivations. While this early investigation is ongoing, you get to know more about the protagonist, Emilia Hart, and her complex life, including her unique personal relationships and compelling professional life, especially as she works with several terrible people.
The story takes an excellent turn about halfway through when The Daughters of Eve organisation emerges and takes credit for the murders. The entire city erupts into chaos as angry, scared men attempt to regain control, soldiers are deployed to the street, and multiple murders occur across Australia. Hart and her colleagues are stuck desperately investigating more obscure potential suspects to discover who is behind the initial murders, while they try not to get overwhelmed by other events. This middle section of Daughters of Eve goes into some very dark directions, especially when certain revelations and secrets come out. This eventual leads up to the big reveal about who the killer is, which, while a little predictable, serves as a major and compelling moment in the plot, and was very well handled by the author. The story continues for a decent while after the killer is arrested, as the events further deteriorate, and the protagonist finds herself extremely involved in everything going on. It all leads up to the moving and dramatic conclusion, which, while tragic in its own way, leaves the reader on a somewhat hopefully note that think really worked. This was an incredible and deeply moving story, and I deeply enjoyed the brilliant combination of captivating mystery and dark tone.
Without a doubt, the most memorable part of Daughters of Eve is the strong and powerful look at sexual and domestic violence that exists within the world today, as much of the story focuses on victims-survivors and abusive men. Campbell paints an appropriately bleak picture of how society can hurt women of all ages, which gives the story a very grim, if realistic, coating that will both shock and move you. Featuring multiple female characters, each with their own unique story, you get a deep understanding of some of the violence or discrimination out there, and the various issues and societal problems surrounding it, such as the restrictions on policing it. There are so many dark elements about abusive men and sexual violence throughout this book, and I think Campbell utilised it perfectly throughout Daughters of Eve to create her captivating tale. I particularly appreciated the way in which Campbell envisions the reaction that would occur if some vigilante women did start to target abusive men in a violent way. The subsequent counterviolence, male protests, and over-the-top use of authorities and the military is a cynically entertaining inclusion, and the subsequent comparison between this and the existing violence against women makes for a harsh counterpoint. While parts of the reaction by authorities, politician and men might seem somewhat unrealistic, certain recent events might potentially suggest that Campbell is right, and it is probably exactly how events would occur. While I do think that Campbell did get a little heavy handed with some of these elements throughout the book, it produced a very emotional and confronting story that expertly enhanced the main mystery narrative. I would probably suggest that people who are triggered by sexual and domestic violence may want to avoid Daughters of Eve because of these inclusions; this is a very thought-provoking part of the book that will stick with you for a long time.
Naturally, such dark and dramatic elements necessitate several strong and complex central characters, and Campbell uses them to great effect throughout the book. Daughters of Eve’s main character is point of view protagonist Emilia Hart, who proves to be an excellent central focus for the entire plot. Hart is a character with a substantial amount of baggage, and her own terrible childhood and long experience as a police officer, especially one who primarily deals with domestic murders, ensures the events of this book deeply impact her. Watching her try to come to terms with some of the outrages she witnesses, as well as the deep personal stakes that emerge, is pretty inspirational and moving, and you end up feeling really connected to her. The rest of the characters in this book are fantastic and they all add a great supporting edge to Hart’s story. This includes Emilia’s adopted daughters, both of whom have their own tragic backstories, her brash but loyal police partner, and her surprisingly understanding love interest from Melbourne. You get a real sense of some of the terrible sexism and violence experienced by women every day, and each of the characters in Daughters of Eve do a good job exploring this. I really grew attached to several of the characters in this great cast and found their powerful stories to be brilliant.
Daughters of Eve ended up being an exceptional and distinctive Australian thriller and it is one that I am really glad I got the opportunity to read. Nina D. Campbell hit her debut out of the park, and I really got addicted to the excellent, dark and moving story that her first book contained. With some very powerful and insightful elements, Daughters of Eve will stick with you well after you have finished powering through its amazing story. I cannot wait to see what Campbell produces next, and I look forward to reading more stuff from this exciting new Australian author.