THE DISTANCE is the first novel in a series by Helen Giltrow featuring Charlotte Alton. The 2nd novel in the series – IDENTITY was published in 2015 but unfortunately I have not been able to find this novel published in English.
Charlotte Alton lives a double life. As Charlotte she is an elegant, wealthy socialite while as Karla she specialises in obtaining information and in making people disappear. About a year ago she retired from her secret business, leaving the running of it to her colleague Craigie, but one of the few clients to have ever seen her face has returned to seek her help.
Simon Johansson, ex-special services and now a hit man for hire, has been contracted to kill someone who is currently in ‘The Program’. The program is an experimental self-regulating jail where the inmates roam the fenced in streets doing whatever they want. The jail is impenetrable – no one can get in or out. Simon wants Karla to help him get in so he can carry out the hit, then help him get out again.
Karla has found a way to help Simon enter and exit the Program, but she is uncomfortable with the assignment. She can’t find out anything about the victim – it is as if they don’t exist. As she continues her investigation she becomes more and more uncomfortable with the hit. Simon, now in the Program, is reaching the same conclusions as Karla. Added to the problems are Karla’s and Simon’s feelings for each other.
This was an excellent and complex story. I grew to love quite a few of the characters, not all of whom managed to survive to the end.
The Program was a brutal futuristic prison and I can’t imagine society heading in that direction, but it was good for the story.
I’m hoping that Helen Giltrrow’s 2nd novel IDENTITY is eventually published in English as I’d love to spend more time with Charlotte and Simon. I’m also hoping that she will publish more novels in the future.