BROOKE ROBINSON Author of THE INTERPRETER: Interpreting the Interpreter

Written by Brooke Robinson

Some years back, I came across an article in The Guardian newspaper written by a language interpreter whoworked in the criminal justice system in London. Like most monolingual people, I’d never given thought to the fascinating profession of interpreting before, one that’s absolutely crucial to the functioning of the legal system in any multicultural country. I immediately knew I wanted to write about an interpreter but I couldn’t settle on a story, so I put the idea in my metaphorical drawer. When, years later, I thought about uniting my love of fictional vigilantes with interpreting, I finally had my story. 


Interpreters must make choices about how they convey the emotion, the tone, the attitude, the overall intention of the speech they’re tasked with translating. They are human beings and not machines, and all of us bring our own personal biases into our workplace and make mistakes. An interpreter, for example, speaking for the accused in a murder trial, or for a suspect in a police interview, is in a position of immense responsibility, and therefore power. One mistranslated word, if it’s in the right place, could potentially affect the outcome of a trial and the course of someone’s life. Once I understood this, I kept thinking: what would I do? If I had the opportunity to alter the outcome of a criminal trial, mistranslate one word and get away with it – would I take it? I have always loved vigilantism in fiction. My protagonist, Revelle Lee, is unique in that her vigilantism does not come in form of physical violence as it usually does, but as a kind of linguistic vigilantism. Revelle does not get her hands dirty (read: bloody). To get the outcome she wants, to achieve what she thinks is justice, all she has to do is say the wrong word.  


Some of my favourite vigilantes in fiction:


Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

What I love about the Dexter novels is that it takes a blood spatter analyst - someone who is usually working away in the background in crime fiction while the detective is front and centre - and makes them the protagonist through their own vigilantism. I took this same approach with The Interpreter – using vigilantism to write a protagonist who is always there in the justice system, but who never usually has the spotlight. Anyone who has seen the TV series knows that Dexter is charming, funny, sometimes brutal, often morally dubious, but always compelling. This is the first novel in the series and the one on which the first season of the TV show was based. Even if you have seen the show, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this read.  


Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi

Helen Zahavi’s protagonist, Bella, begins the novel as a quiet, meek woman who keeps to herself, but after a neighbour's repeated stalking and threats of sexual assault, she embarks on a forty-eight hour killing spree of vigilante revenge, murdering men who she believes are the kind to habitually harass and assault women. This book caused an absolute literary storm on its release in 1991. It will make you look differently on England’s delightful beach town of Brighton. 


Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

Yes, this novel is written by the Marcia Clark of O.J Simpson fame. Clark’s protagonist Samantha Brinkman is a defense attorney and I don’t want to spoil the twist so I’ll just say this: what kind of crime fiction book might an experienced prosecutor write, who has likely in the course of their career, seen the guilty go free? This novel is the first in a series featuring Samantha Brinkman and I would suggest it’s essential to start with this one to best enjoy the twist.


The Stranger Inside by Lisa Unger

I love this book by the brilliant Lisa Unger which tells the story of children who do, and do not survive, an evil child abductor, and how their lives later intersect with the perpetrator, and others like him, in their adulthood. Riveting and chilling and full of twists. I’d thoroughly recommend the excellent audio book for this one which definitely gave me nightmares (in the best possible way) when listening to chapters before bed.   


Honorable mention goes to the 2013 film Prisoners directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Aaron Guzikowski. Hugh Jackman plays a father whose child is kidnapped and when he believes the local police aren’t doing enough to find her, takes matters into his own hands. This film also has a great performance by Viola Davis as a morally conflicted and distraught mother who plays her own part in terrible vigilante justice. Paul Dano plays a quiet, local man who keeps to himself until he becomes the main suspect. This film has some superb twists and will really have you questioning what you’d do in this impossible situation. 


Hardback £14.99Publisher: Vintage Publishing 
Published: 08/June/2023



Brooke Robinson

Book Reviews
About Us
Contact Us

Privacy Policy | Contact Shots Editor