A few years ago, during a minor personal crisis, an idea came to me. What if a woman had a mid-life crisis, and she dealt with it by taking on the persona of a superhero? I’m not talking about some kind of ‘domestic goddess’, ‘supermum’ or – my personal worst – ‘all mums are heroes’; I’m talking about a woman who puts on a mask, and puts on a cape, and gets out there and rights some wrongs.

I decided to explore this idea . . . and I explored it by putting on a mask and putting on a cape and walking around High Wycombe doing good deeds. I really did. And in the process of doing that I discovered my hero.

My hero is Jenny Pepper, and she is absolutely, resolutely ordinary. It’s really important to tell you that. She has no superpowers. In fact, she doesn’t even have any cool gadgets; she has the contents of her kitchen. One night she’s dressed as a superhero for a fancy dress party and she stumbles on a crime. She steps in and takes on the attacker, really cack-handedly, and she feels bloody marvellous! She feels alive for the first time in years. That’s how her secret life begins. She continues to tackle petty crime ineptly, but the stakes start to get higher. And as they get higher her secret life and her ordinary life begin to collide.

I want to tell you why I am really passionate about this novel. All the time in our culture we’re told stories about men who want to be heroes. It’s a real commonplace, and we’re sold the line that this is something women don’t want, but I believe that’s wrong. We want to be mighty and we want to be magnificent. We want to be heroes.

Vigilante is a book about a woman who knows this, and gets out there, and does something about it.

Praise for Vigilante

  • Clare Morrall

    So compelling that I couldn’t put it down. This is an exceptional, arresting novel

  • i-newspaper

    This deft and moving debut offers more than Seventies nostalgia

  • The Independent

    Remarkably assured...shrewdly-observed...the pitch-perfect children's banter and accurate period detail lend authenticity to her exciting debut that suggests this author will offer many more insightful and compelling stories in the years ahead

  • The Independent

    Remarkably assured...shrewdly observed...pitch-perfect

  • The Guardian

    A new novelist whose next book you are already impatient to read

  • Daily Mail

    Boldly plotted and confidently executed, its momentum maintained to the end

  • We Love This Book

    The genius of this novel is the gentle way that the mysteries of the narrative unfold, fully immersing you in the story... it has a heart and soul

  • Essentials

    The suspense simply builds and builds

  • Marcel Theroux

    Jubilee is an assured debut by a writer of great promise. It's a sharply-written account of the birth pangs of multicultural Britain

  • Susan Elliot Wright

    What a treat this book was. A clever idea, beautifully realised...this is powerful stuff

  • Daily Mail

    This is a novel that, without worthiness, touches on everything from the sexualisation of schoolgirls to the misogyny of comics. Harris’s debut, Jubilee, was a bestseller, and her entertaining follow-up deserves to match its success.

  • The Times

    Entertainment wrapped round a tense thriller

  • Angela Clarke

    Vigilante is one of the great feminist novels of our age. It’s time to fight back. Ladies, don your masks.

  • The Irish Examiner

    Kick-Ass for small-town mothers...fuses the wryly familiar with flashes of poetry, and the plot’s thriller elements convey a real sense of jeopardy...worked through with charm and verve.

  • Karen Campbell

    Smart, funny - and shocking. Quietly, carefully, Harris chips away the veneer of normality. Just like the mighty Jenny, you find yourself tumbling from light into a much darker place, until you're out there, fighting on the side of right with this unlikely - and wonderful - superhero.

  • Hayley Webster

    I can't even put into words how moving and pertinent some of the stuff in this book is...I love Jenny Pepper, and so will you.

  • The Writes of Woman

    A cracking read. It’s a brilliant book. Highly recommended.

  • We Love This Book

    Shelley Harris' writing is witty and beautifully poignant. Vigilante is shocking, empowering and hilariously funny throughout.

  • Woman and Home

    Nostalgic and moving

  • Woman and Home

    A quirky, entertaining read - I loved it.

  • Heat

    Jenny's bravery is nothing if not inspiring.

  • Lovereading

    A great idea, beautifully handled. Jenny is a wonderful character and the tale builds to a surprise ending. Hugely enjoyable.

  • Bookbag

    I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in ages...Jenny is brave and admirable, the kick-ass superhero we all want to be on the inside.

  • Prima

    This story is for any woman who's ever wondered if there's more to life than ironing.

  • Isabel Costello

    The strength of Vigilante lies precisely in the juxtaposition of the mundane and the extraordinary, the struggle to accept who we are and the raging desire to be someone or something else.

  • Annecdotal blog

    An engaging, funny, and ultimately moving novel

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