Curfew by Jayne Cowie

Stars: 1.5 out of 5.

This is the case where the blurb is more interesting than the actual book. Or where the author had a wonderful idea, but lacked the skill to realize it well. It could have been a wonderful dystopian novel and a great social commentary. Instead, it turned into a frustrating slog that I only finished out of frustration.

As I said, the premise had so much potential – after a wave of violent crimes against women perpetrated by men, a resolution was passed to put all the male population under a curfew from 7pm to 7am each night. And supposedly, things got better for women after that… for 16 years. Until a woman if found clearly murdered in a park overnight, when all men should be indoors. So who killed her? 

I got excited to see how this society, where women are effectively in charge, would work. How is the curfew enforced? Are those ankle monitors removable? Can they be fooled? How did men consent to this clear violation of their freedom? I was also looking forward to the murder mystery and the investigation. Unfortunately, the inherent flaws of this book sabotaged my enjoyment in the end. 

This book is told in several different POVs, which in itself isn’t usually a problem for me. The problem this time is that all of the characters we follow are extremely unlikeable. They are self-centered and react emotionally to anything and everything happening to and around them. What happened to logical thinking? What happened to compassion? 

This makes this whole women-ran society a nightmarish place to be. Which would be okay if this was a subtitle social commentary about vilifying the other genre and critique of normal genre role. But it’s not…

Second problem is that there are no shades of gray in this book. All men, without exceptions, are bad, bad, bad, BAD! Seriously? Being a survivor of abuse myself, I can understand the impulse to vilify those who hurt you, but this is taken to the extreme. What about the fact that the toxic image of masculinity that is so prevalent in the Western countries hurts men just as much as it hurts women? Neither sex is born bad or good, they are made so by their upbringing and their circumstances. It’s nature versus nurture.

Also, this world is very binary. So all women are free, and all men are locked up at night (and BAD people thinking/doing bad things). What about gay men? What about gender fluid people? What about trans men and women? How do these rules apply to them? Or do they simply not exist in this world?

The murder investigation itself was also very badly handled in my opinion. This whole mystery of who was the murder victim was dragged out way too long. I would have preferred to discover their identity earlier and then try to find out what events resulted in their murder, than following several people who could be the potential murder victim and guessing who it was. I guess the author wanted to create a connection with the victim by having us following their life before the murder. Well, since all of them were unlikeable, I didn’t particularly care.

PS: I received an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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