Book review of Exclusion Zone by J. M Hewitt

Exclusion ZoneBook Description:

On 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.

Exclusion Zone is a gripping thriller that will keep readers hooked to the last page.

A man clutching a shirt to his face rushes past and I reach out and grab him.
“What has happened?” I ask
He slows to a stop and sags against me. I push him upright and he teeters for a moment before dropping to his knees. The shirt falls to the ground and I stare at his blooded face. I pick up his shirt and press it into his hands, silently willing him to cover up the macabre mask that used to be his face. He flaps the material at me and I lurch away from the drops of blood. He tries to get up, stumbles back to the ground and crawls away from me.
As I walk onwards I see more men like him. They line the road, dazed and bleeding. The closer I get to the building the worse off they seem. At the gate to the factory there is a man sitting in the road. He claws at his face, his mouth stretched in a silent scream. He does not see me approach as he is too busy trying to hold the skin onto his face. Muscle, skin and bloody tissue slips through his fingers.
I am aware that my balance has gone, I am light headed and I drop to my knees and pull myself backwards away from the gate. Now I am too dazed, just like the men who litter the road around me.
Last year, I thought what I witnessed between Afia and Niko was the worst thing I could ever see. Now I know I was wrong. That carnal act, although brutal and violating was life. This, what I see before now, this is death.

The main characters, Alex and Elian, are working together to investigate the mysterious disappearances of residents in Pripyat, where the the Chernobyl nuclear disaster occurred. The book is divided up into chapters that are specifically for certain characters in different times. The movement back and forth is well done and never confusing.

All the characters (even the ones who have a smaller role to play) are well developed. Alex and Elian’s working relationship comes across well, and the author has done a great job of mixing in their confused feelings for each other without detracting from the details of the investigation. There is just enough description of the disaster and it’s aftermath without going over the top. Sometimes, description can be overdone, but the way this book is written leaves enough room for your imagination to fill in the blanks – which I prefer.

This is a really interesting, well-constructed story. It’s clear what is happening and when it happens.I particularly liked the good range of characters. It didn’t take me very long to read this book, as I kept wanting to know what was going to be uncovered next. A great thriller and one of my top reads of the year. Highly recommended.

You can find The Exclusion Zone here on Amazon UK or here on Amazon US

Author, Jeanette Hewitt can be found on Facebook or Twitter

As always, thank you for reading.

All the best,


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