Take one unusual, flawed protagonist, add in the details of her life as an elite London call girl and some explicit sex scenes, wrap it all in a damn good mystery and you have Untouchable, former journalist Ava Marsh’s strong debut.

“Stella” has a complicated past that has made her turn to her life as high class escort. When she’s not working she’s taking night shifts at a rape crisis center. Then one of the escorts she knows is murdered, and it quickly becomes apparent that a group party she shared with the dead woman makes her a likely victim. What is it that she knows but isn’t aware she knows?

The way the women are exploited will make some readers blood boil, but Stella’s unapologetic approach makes this most unlikely woman a striking protagonist as she tries to unravel what happened to the young murdered woman. She knows that the death of a prostitute will not be taken as seriously as would the murder of a society matron or a young mother. And when she feels some of the powerful men in London she’s come across might be involved, it’s only a matter of time before she finds herself on their list for extermination.

What started out as way to explain a death quickly becomes a race to save her own life for Stella.

This is a fascinating look at the life these women live, from waxing and personal appearance woes to the sadistic men they encounter. There are powerful men, too, and others who are lonely, merely looking for a connection to a woman who will listen to them. For that’s one thing Stella is paid to do, besides perform sex acts, and that’s listen. It’s a gift that may end up saving her life before it’s all over.

A gritty, unusual debut Auntie M found highly readable.