The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out follows Ben Ames, a conscientious private investigator, as he strives to untangle the mystery surrounding a missing university student. On the hunt, he’s joined by his superstar ex-boyfriend Jess — or Jack Lowe, as he’s known to the public. While retracing Kim’s steps, the two inevitably wind down the path that led to their own ruin seven years ago.
The focus of the narrative is made evident from the very first page, with its glare landing on a picture of Jess’ startling beauty; dominating magazine covers as much as Ben’s psyche. The injection of the central mystery, therefore, tries to blend with the unrest already present in his head, creating a dual source of unsteadiness.
And yet, while compelling in their own way, Jess’ perturbations about life in the spotlight serve to undermine the gravity of Ben’s case — mostly by steering us away from it. With the singer’s mental health and past traumas taking center stage, the story creates the impression of having compressed two narratives into one.
Sadly, this leaves little room for the exploration of either element, shaping both Jess’ struggles and Ben’s unease about Kim’s fate into something unshakably instrumental. Having said that, there’s no denying the magnetism of the connection that Ben and Jess share.
Humorous in places and acutely sensitive in others, their dynamic proves potent enough to carry the reader’s interest, layering tactile reality over the wound of their shared youth. The peripheral characters are equally well-defined, adding flow and ease to every string of dialogue.
What’s more, with the cumbersome themes of mental health, fame, and disillusionment — both in relation to careers and relationships — weighing down the novel’s atmosphere, the plot is proportionally light. Despite the threat that awaits the two men, and the force field of the mutual attraction that keeps reorienting them, there is very little tension for the reader to hold onto.
Instead, the story boasts a soothing, balm-like quality that seeks to heal what has been slivered. Though fairly fast-paced and entertaining, the probe into Kim’s disappearance takes a back seat, consequently stripping the climax of its expected pizzazz. What it succeeds in creating, however, is a powerful attachment to both Ben and Jess, making the prospect of a sequel irresistible.
Publication date: June 14, 2022 (DSP Publications)