March 15

The Distance – Helen Giltrow

The Distance(1)They don’t call her Karla anymore. She’s Charlotte Alton: she doesn’t trade in secrets, she doesn’t erase dark pasts, and she doesn’t break hit-men into prison.

Except that is exactly what she’s been asked to do.

The job is impossible: get the assassin into an experimental new prison so that he can take out a target who isn’t officially there.

It’s a suicide mission, and quite probably a set-up.

So why can’t she say no?


My most sincere thanks to Helen who sent me a copy of her book for review. As part of the Blog Tour to celebrate the paperback launch of The Distance, Helen kindly answered a few of my questions – you can see our conversation here:


On the cover of The Distance is a quote from Lee Child which reads ‘Fast, hard and very, very good’ He is right – The Distance is all of those things.

Charlotte Alton (under the name Karla) trades in information. She knows people that can help her acquire information and she knows where the skeletons are buried (she also knows the guys who buried them).

Simon Johanssen is a hit man. He is to be smuggled into a secure facility compound (an experimental prison) and is tasked with killing one of the residents – assuming he can even find her.

The secure facility is known as The Program and is home to many extremely unsavoury characters; Johanssen has a struggle on his hands just to keep himself alive while he attempts to track down his target. However, problems arise when Johanssen finds that his intended victim is under protection of The Program’s ‘Kingpin’ figure – a man who believes Johanssen is dead and would be extremely unhappy to find that Johanssen is still very much alive.

Charlotte is responsible for co-ordinating Johanssen’s mission. She needs to find a way to get him inside The Program and ensure that his cover story is watertight. As the plot unfolds we see the extent of Charlotte’s network of informants and operatives and a cracking story (which began as a thriller) begins to morph into a deliciously suspenseful spy novel.

I loved Charlotte’s character, she was pitched perfectly and the balance between her life as Charlotte and that of her alter-ego Karla is fascinating reading. Powerful yet vulnerable – the opening chapter makes it clear that there are dark times in Charlotte’s near future.

With two key characters to follow (and a necessity to cover some historic events that outline how the players in the story bring substantial ‘baggage’ to their current predicament) there is a lot to keep track of. The ‘fast’ element of The Distance (for me) was the way that Helen Giltrow was able to switch the reading focus between past and present, Charlotte and Johanssen or events inside and outside of The Program.

The ‘hard’ element of The Distance should probably be expected if you have a facility full of dangerous criminals who are left to form their own community and who play by their own rules. At this stage the character of Bryce needs to be mentioned. Brice is the right-hand man of the aforementioned ‘Kingpin.’ He seems to delight in keeping his victims alive and slowly wearing them down by hurting them and then hurting them some more. Brice is not nice – but he is compelling reading.

I am finishing my thoughts on The Distance with the ‘very, very good’ part of Mr Child’s review – Yes. Definitely. Go read it.


The Distance by Helen Giltrow is published by Orion and is available now in paperback and in digital format.


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Posted March 15, 2015 by Gordon in category "From The Bookshelf