Not In My Name by Michael Coolwood #BookReview #BlogTour #Giveaway

In an alternate 2003 where the UK voted to go to war with Iraq in a split referendum, an anti-war activist is murdered. Her friend and another activist, Phoebe, fixates on finding the truth as the only way to cope with her grief and anxiety.

Phoebe and her ex-boyfriend Sefu aren’t able to investigate for long before another of their activist friends is murdered. They find evidence that the murderer might be one of their own. Phoebe’s anxiety nearly cripples her ability to cope, and her attraction to her ex isn’t helping any.​

Firebrand Xia is determined to shut the investigation down. Matriarch Paula had no alibi, but also no motive. Young punk Liam is lying to protect someone. Ex-soldier Gus struggles with his PTSD.

Phoebe needs to deal constructively with her anxiety, and quickly, before the police find out what has happened, and every one of their friends winds up in prison. Or dead.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Not In My Name today. Many thanks to Michael Coolwood, Claret Press and Rachel Gilby from Rachel's Random Resources for inviting me and for my digital copy of the novel.

Michael Coolwood has set Not In My Name in an alternative Britain but it's one that's instantly recognisable. Taking place shortly after a divisive referendum, won by a slight margin thanks to the lies and hyperbole of the Yes campaign, the country remains bitterly split between those who fear what the result means and those who vociferously declare that "You lost, get over it!" Five days previously, 52% of the voting public answered 'yes' to the question, 'Should the UK intervene in Iraq due to Saddam Hussein's refusal to disarm?' 48% had voted no.
The novel opens at a demonstration in Birmingham, five days after the result. Phoebe and her small group of friends who opposed the referendum are taking part in a die-in, alongside protestors from other anti-war organisations. It inevitably turns violent after far-right agitators arrive on the scene, resulting in the arrest of Phoebe and her friend, Sefu. The last thing Phoebe sees before the doors of the police van close is Cassie, who has evaded capture and is blending into the crowd.
She later discovers that Cassie, the youngest of their group, was killed following a fight in a pub. Realising that there are members of the police force whose beliefs align more closely with fascist groups like Patriot Unite and who consider their group to be saboteurs, Phoebe decides to investigate Cassie's murder herself. Her first-person narrative describes her crippling anxiety, which she vividly calls her terror python, but she begins to understand that she is able to distract herself by looking into what led to Cassie's death.
The opening chapters of the book are slower paced, introducing the people who Phoebe (and previously Cassie) live with on a former farm. The collective are supposed to make decisions democratically but of course, there are disagreements and these earlier sections explain the group dynamics well. The brutal and shocking murder of a second activist friend almost in front of her, threatens to push Phoebe over the edge but she is able to distract herself by searching for clues. She enrols the help of Sefu who was once her boyfriend and their relationship was one of the highlights of the book for me. There is still evidently an enduring closeness between them, they flirt and tease one another but are also able to lay their feelings bare. 
This perceptive novel explores a number of themes, including racial discrimination and Phoebe learns to examine her own prejudices as a white woman who dated a black man. Perhaps most damningly though is their reluctance to report the murder of their friend to the police. Even when it becomes apparent that there is a murderer in their midst, Phoebe and Sefu are understandably too scared of what could happen once the authorities become involved. Throughout the novel there are familiar quotes, speeches and statistics which have been altered to fit this story but which will resonate with anybody who has lived in this country since 2016. The manipulative, destructive lies of the Yes camp, a frequently complicit media who give airtime to extreme right-wing views in the name of balance and an ineffectual opposition lead to a point where the country is perhaps irrevocably divided, with those who campaign for decency, fairness and equality somehow becoming the enemy of the state.
Not In My Name cleverly treads a fine line between being an unsettling political satire and a puzzling murder mystery. While Phoebe and Sefu are brought to life well, the other characters are perhaps less developed. However, not knowing them as thoroughly prolongs doubts over the identity of the murderer right up to the surprising conclusion. Thoughtful, astute and disquieting but not without wit and warmth too, Not In My Name is an excellent introduction to Michael Coolwood's Democracy and Dissent mystery series. I look forward to reading more.

Not In My Name is published by Claret Press and can be purchased directly from their website, Amazon UK, Amazon US and Waterstones

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

Giveaway to Win a Paperback of Not in My Name by Michael Coolwood (UK Only)

Please note: This giveaway is courtesy of Rachel's Random Resources and in no way the responsibility of Hair Past A Freckle.

*Terms and Conditions - UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Good luck!

About the Author
Michael Coolwood writes feminist cosy mysteries. His work is deeply political and his characters are driven by a desire to make the world a better place. This is partly due to a respect for passionate, caring people, and partly because cuts to the health service in the UK have ensured he can barely leave the house due to his swamp of health problems. His cosy mystery series is called Democracy and Dissent and grapples with issues of the day.