September 21

Exclusion Zone – J.M. Hewitt

Exclusion ZoneOn 26th April 1986, reactor four exploded at the factory in Pripyat, Chernobyl.

At the same time teenager Afia Bello vanished from her home without a trace.

The damage from the nuclear fallout is examined over the following weeks, months and years by Afia’s younger sister Sissy, as she unwittingly uncovers clues relating to her sister’s disappearance, and the secret life that Afia kept hidden from her family.

In the summer of 2015 Private Detective Alex Harvey is hired to investigate the disappearances that have been occurring within the exclusion zone.

He can think of only one person to bring along with him to help; Ukrainian national Elian Gould.

Elian – who was adopted at birth – has her own reasons for accepting the job; namely to search for her own family history which has always been a mystery to her.

But the remaining citizens of Chernobyl are hiding their own secrets and with a darker force at work, the missing person’s case suddenly turns into something much more serious…


I received a copy of  Exclusion Zone from the author. But as she had very kindly signed it for me I bought another copy so I could keep the signed one good!

Not going to mess around on this one – it is a 5* read and I loved it.

Chernobyl as a setting is fabulous for a crime thriller – the place where nobody wants to go. A place where time stands still. And a place where evil can seemingly thrive without consequence. The scenes in the book that take place in Chernobyl are extremely dark, darker than I had expected (but this is a good thing). A killer is hunting victims and revelling in their capture. His crimes are escaping the attention of the authorities and he keeps his base of operations mobile to reduce the chance of capture.  We know this as throughout Exclusion Zone the narrative will swing away from our hero, detective Alex Harvey, to focus on the murderer – we follow the escalation in his crimes.

I mentioned Alex Harvey – he is the star of the show (and hopefully many more shows to follow) he has been engaged to investigate the disappearances that have been taking place in the Exclusion Zone.  To assist with his investigations he recruits the services of Elian Gould, a secretive young woman who will prove to be both a help and a hindrance to Harvey as his investigations take him to the edge of the exclusion zone and the mysteries that lie within.

The narrative swings between past and present with a story spanning around 3o years. It is handled brilliantly and the story flows really well – time leaping in a novel can sometimes jar or feel clumsy, not so in Exclusion Zone. The characters we meet are really well defined and you will cheer, cry and despair at how they fare (did I mention the dark edge?)

As I stated at the start of this review I loved Exclusion Zone. If you are looking for an engrossing story set in a distinctive (and fabulously described) environment with a decidedly nasty bad guy then this is a book you need to read.

Exclusion Zone is published by Endeavour Press and can be ordered here:


I would also recommend catching up with JM Hewitt chatting all things Ukraine with Alex Shaw – they joined me earlier this year and you can see their full conversation here:



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Posted September 21, 2016 by Gordon in category "5* Reviews", "From The Bookshelf