Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror novella HUMAN FLESH by @NickClausen9

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Human Flesh by Nick Clausen

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I am a fan of horror, had read great reviews of one of Clausen’s collections of short stories, and I liked the sound of this one (and the cover is pretty impressive as well).

This is a short horror novella that works at many levels. Its topic is fairly well known (especially to lovers of the genre, and as a psychiatrist I’m also aware of its diagnostic implications, although I won’t elaborate on that), but despite its short length, the author manages to capture the atmosphere of the story, the cold, the darkness, the weirdness and the horror (more psychological than graphic, although it has its moments) in the few pages available, using also a pretty interesting way of telling the story. As mentioned in the description, rather than a standard narration, we have what appears to be a compilation of documents pertaining to a mysterious case, and this will appeal as well to lovers of crime stories and police procedural novels (although if they are sticklers for details, they might be bothered by the supernatural aspects and by some bits and pieces of information that don’t seem to quite fit in, but…). This peculiar way of narrating the story forces readers to do some of the work and fill in the blanks, and that is always a good strategy when it comes to horror (our imagination can come up with pretty scary things, as we all know). It also gives readers a variety of perspectives and some background that would have been trickier to include in a story of this length otherwise. Does it make it more difficult to identify with any of the characters? I didn’t find that to be the case. The story (or the evidence) starts mildly enough. An accident means that a family cannot go skiing as usual for their winter holidays, and the father decides to send his two children (and older girl, Otha, and a younger boy, Hugh) to stay with their grandfather, Fred, in Maine.  Things start getting weird from the beginning, and Otha (who has a successful blog, and whose entries create the backbone of the story, making her the main narrator and the most sympathetic and easier to identify with for readers) is not the only one who worries about her grandfather, as some of the neighbours have also been wondering about the old man’s behaviour. The secret behind their grandmother’s death becomes an important part of the story and there are eerie moments aplenty to come.

The novella manages to combine well not only some legends and traditional Native-American stories with more modern concepts like PTSD, survivor’s guilt, but also the underlying current of grief that has come to dominate the life of the children’s grandfather. It also emphasises how much we have come to rely on technology and creature comforts that give us a false sense of security and cannot protect us again extreme natural conditions and disasters. Because of the age of the main protagonist, there is also a YA feel to the story with elements of the coming-of-age genre —even a possible love interest— and I’ve seen it listed under such category, but those aspects don’t overwhelm the rest of the story, and I don’t think they would reduce the enjoyment of readers who usually avoid that genre.

Is it scary? Well, that is always a personal call. As I said, there are some chilling scenes, but the novella is not too graphic (it relies heavily on what the characters might or might not have seen or heard, and also on our own capacity for autosuggestion and suspension of disbelief). There is something about the topic, which combines a strong moral taboo with plenty of true stories going back hundreds of years, which makes it a very likely scenario and something anybody reading it cannot help what reflect upon. We might all reassure ourselves that we wouldn’t do something like that, no matter how dire the conditions, but how confident are we? For me, that is the scariest part of the story.

In sum, this is a well-written and fairly scary story, with the emphasis on atmosphere and psychological horror rather than on blood and gore (but there is some, I’m warning you), successfully combined with an interesting way of narrating a familiar story. As a straight mystery not all details tie in perfectly, but it’s a good introduction to a new voice (in English) in the horror genre. I’m sure it won’t be the last of Clausen’s stories I’ll read.

Book description

They never caught it

During the winter of 2017, a series of strange occurrences took place in a small town of northern Maine. A rational explanation for what happened has still not been presented. Now, for the first time, all the available written evidence is being released to the public from what is commonly know as the Freyston case.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #RomCom There She Goes by Lynne Shelby @LynneB1

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading There She Goes by Lynne Shelby

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In case you’re in a hurry (I know my reviews can go on a bit), I thought I’d give you a quick summary of my opinion. I had plenty of fun reading this novel. Although it does not break any new ground and there are no huge surprises, the characters are likeable, and if you love theatre (musical theatre in particular), you’re curious about what happens behind the curtains, enjoy romantic comedies not heavy on sex or drama, and fancy a visit to the London theatrical district, you’ll enjoy this novel.

This is the second in Shelby’s Theatreland series, but it can be read independently (although I guess from the teaser at the end of this novel that you might recognise some of the characters in the other novel in the series if you read it as well). I’d never read any of the author’s novels before, although I know her romantic comedies are popular and having read this one, I can see why.

The novel tells the story of Julie, a struggling actress, who’s only been out of acting school for one year, and whose life is split between the day (rather late-evening/night) job (handing leaflets for a London night club), and trying to land an acting job. She tells her story in the first person, and she is young, dynamic, attractive and talented, although she is not aware of how truly good she is. She shares a shabby apartment with her friend and fellow aspiring actress, Alexa, who is always ready for a good time, and although happy to have casual relationships, has her exacting standards when it comes to finding “the” man of her life. Julie is far more romantic, and she meets the man all readers will guess is the male romantic lead, Zac, very early on in the book. There is a certain deal of “will they/won’t they” going on at first, but let me reassure you that it doesn’t take long for things to go in the right direction, at least for a while. There are chapters also told from Zac’s perspective, although far fewer, narrated in the third person, and this allows us to gain some insight into his true thoughts and feelings, while at the same time keeping some information hidden. Zac is, of course, gorgeous, extremely talented, and has some acting credits to his name already, but he has been away for a while and needs to find his way back into the London stage, and there are hints of darkness and secrecy about him and his relationship with Julie.

As I mentioned at the start of this review, there are no major surprises when it comes to the romance side of things. The course of true love, etc., etc., is true here as well, and that is the case for several relationships that appear in the book (not only Julie and Zac’s, but also Alexa and her partners, particularly Tim, and there is also the story of Charlie, a friend of Alexa’s from acting school, and his long-term girlfriend Suzanne), but they don’t drag on to the point where one loses interest, and there is no excess of drama. There is sex, but the scenes are pretty mild and not very explicit. I’m not a fan of erotica and tend to avoid it as much as I can, and I was not bothered at all by the scenes in this book. If I had to rate the degree of heat, on a scale of 4, this would be, at most, a 2. I wouldn’t say this is a PG book, but a lot of the action takes place behind closed doors. And, of course, there is the obligatory HEA. And it is pretty satisfactory all round.

The characters are not complex and don’t deal with any major issues, although they are not cardboard cut-outs either. What brings them to life and makes them distinctive are the relationships they have with each other (particularly their friendships, which feel real), and also their love of acting and theatre. Julie and Alexa’s relationship, in particular, is one of the things I most enjoyed in the novel, and their shared apartment felt like home by the end of the novel. There are some nasty characters (egotistical and self-centred rather than truly evil), but there are no extremes of behaviour or true evil, and most of the characters are quick-witted, caring, and have a sense of fun.

I am a fan of theatre, and of musical theatre in particular (although I also love straight plays), and I enjoyed the talk about agents, acting schools, auditions, rehearsals, dance classes, and the imagination the author displays when she comes up with the plots and names of musicals (some sound like adaptations from well-known books), plays, and also theatres, and she shows a great knowledge of the topic, and love for its history (there are some homages fans of the genre are likely to pick up). As we follow Julie and her friends, through the process of auditions and the dreadful wait for “the call” we share in the excitement, and the joy and/or disappointment. It is a fascinating world, which Shelby manages to immerse readers in, managing to keep it light. (If you’d like a lighter version of A Chorus Line, you might have found it in this book). I am Spanish, and appreciated the fact that Zac Díaz, the hero, is of Spanish heritage and uses Spanish expressions often, and Joe García, the main name in musical theatre according to the novel is also Spanish. And I had great fun imagining what La Pasionaria, The Musical, would be like.

The writing style is fluid, it flows well, it is light and airy, full of amusing references and fun moments, and although we might feel sure we know where things are heading, we can’t help but keep turning the pages. There is a secret, something that makes us wonder about the hero of the novel and his true character, and there is a reveal at the end. I guessed what it was, but I must admit that I had several theories I kept swapping and changing throughout most of the book, and the author is good at hinting and misdirecting us, keeping us guessing.

I recommend this novel to anybody looking for a romantic comedy, especially to lovers of theatre (musical theatre in particular) and of London. Although there are no major surprises, the author manages to combine engaging characters, a fascinating background (there’s no business like show business, indeed), in a wonderful setting (London’s West End). I know where to go for my next theatrical romance!

Book description

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Contemporary #Fiction WINTER FLOWER by @CharlesEMiles

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Winter Flower by Charles Sheehan-Miles

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This is the first novel I read by Charles Sheehan-Miles, who is a brand new author to me, although he has published a large number of books, and from the comments, I guess he has a legion of fans that were surprised by this book, as it is not a romance. I cannot compare it to his previous work, but I agree with the warning. If readers from his previous books approach this novel as a romance, they will be shocked, because it is far from it.

This is a long book (over 600 pages long), divided up into four parts, with a prologue set two years before the main action of the book, although there are flashbacks (memories) narrated in the first-person by the four main characters —all members of the same family— that offer readers a good understanding of the background to the current situation and help them get to grips with their circumstances, their pasts, and who they are. This is the story of a family, a married couple and their two children, on the brink of collapse due to a terrible tragedy that took place two years before the action we follow chronologically. Or so it seems. (The truth is a bit more complicated than that). Sam and Brenna, the children (adolescents by the time we met them) are close, and Brenna has always willingly played the role of big sister to Sam, there to protect and guide. Until she disappears. Carrying on without her puts a big strain on a family we soon learn was going through difficulties already (some more out in the open than others), and whose communication had ground almost to a halt. The parents, Cole and Erin, are living example of the “opposites attract” edict, at least from a political perspective (Cole, the father, who as a young man decided formal education wasn’t for him and moved up the corporate ladder at lightning speed, is conservative as can be, while Erin, the mother, a college  graduate, is a convinced liberal who sacrificed her career to look after her children), and although the story opens up with Sam’s narration, we soon get to read their own perspective on the matter and the kind of traps they find themselves in.

This is a story that deals in many important subjects, and it could have been told in a variety of ways, but I am impressed not only by the subjects (adultery and its toll on family relationships, sex trafficking, rape, prostitution, bullying, harassment and violence against the LGBT community, missing youths, the isolation of the trans-gender experience for young people, prejudice and harassment at work…) and the sensitive and enlightening way they are handled, but also by the way the story is told. The author allows each character to tell his/her own story, and that makes us walk a mile in their shoes, no matter how uncomfortable they might feel. I am sure many readers will think, as they read, that they would have never reacted in a certain way, or allowed their circumstances to deteriorate to such an extent, but, do we truly know? Although, as the author reminds us in the final note, the events in the book are far from unique (yes, it is a work of fiction, but many individuals and families, unfortunately, will go through similar experiences to those depicted in the book), many of us will never have been in close contact with somebody in such dire circumstances, much less be directly affected by it, so, how do we know what we would do? The characters are not necessarily the most likeable when we meet them (drinking heavily, harassed, afraid for their lives, paralysed and frozen, unable to make decisions and move on), and they are all closed off from each other, trapped, physically or mentally, sometimes by others and their preconceptions, sometimes by their own fears and inability to grief and forgive. The author also makes a conscious decision to introduce the rest of the family —the parents and Sam— first, so we get to see the effect her loss has had on the family before we meet Brenna, the missing girl. Her situation is heart-wrenching, and the most extreme and difficult to read about, although none of the characters have an easy ride.

Thankfully, the author manages to achieve a difficult balance between telling the story, not pulling any punches, making sure people can understand and empathise with what the characters are going through, while avoiding extremely graphic scenes (both of sex and violence), and gratuitous iterations and repetitions of the abuse, which would risk further exploitation rather than facilitating understanding and empathy. Don’t get me wrong; this is a hard read, and readers with triggers around topics such as child abuse, rape, bullying, violence against women and the LGTB community, and racism need to be aware of it. Even people who don’t have such triggers will find it a tough read, but, on the other hand, this is a book with a big heart, and the individual journey of each character, and of the family as a whole, make for an inspiring and hopeful read.

I have already talked about how impressed I am by the story and the way it is told. I grew fond of all the members of the family by the end of the book (it’s impossible for our hearts not to go out to Sam and Brenna, but we get to appreciate their parents as well), and I particularly enjoyed the journey of enlightenment Cole’s father goes through. The author includes most of the reactions we can imagine to these subjects, from the sublime to the ridiculous, (not everybody changes and accepts either. Bigotry remains alive and well, as we all know), and they all felt true. I was particularly fond of Jeremiah and his wife — almost too good to be true— who are an ideal we should all aspire to. I also liked the fact that the story does not stop when most readers would expect it to, and even Sam makes comments on that. There is no magical happy ending here that just makes everything right again. All the members of the family will have to keep working at their relationship and supporting each other, but that is as it should be.

There were no negative reviews of the book at the time I wrote this, and the only objections (apart from the warning that it is not a romance) some people had referred to were Sam’s virtual game playing (that a reader didn’t feel added anything to the novel. Personally, I think it helps readers understand what life is like for the character and experience the kind of coping strategies adolescents in similar circumstances might use), and some others felt the book could have been shorter and still managed to tell the same story. That might be true, but I suspect some of the nuances would have been lost.

This is an excellent book that manages to combine complex and credible characters with a plot that deals with several difficult subjects, without becoming preachy or too graphic. It is horrifying, touching, and insightful all at the same time, and it makes readers witness the highs and lows of the human condition. I recommended it to readers interested in the subjects, but I advise those who might worry about possible triggers to proceed with caution. The author adds some resources (links to websites) for people who need more information about some of the issues raised in the book, and I thought the final conversation of the book, between Brenna and her grandfather in the garden —when the grandfather talks about the snapdragon, and how it grows back after getting rid of the dead stuff, stronger and more beautiful— stands as a great metaphor for the story, and explains the title. Highly recommended.

Book description

A shocking and poignant story of a family on the brink of destruction and the transformational events that could bring them back together—or tear them apart.

Every day, Cole Roberts reminds himself that life wasn’t always this bleak. He was once passionately in love with Erin. Sam used to be an artistic and lively kid. They hadn’t always lived in a shabby two-room house in rural Alabama, where he runs a mediocre restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

That was before Brenna disappeared. It was before Cole lost his job and they lost their home.

Every day it gets worse. Erin drinks wine out of the bottle and spends her days with a tormented expression, searching the web for signs of their daughter. Sam hides in his room and rarely speaks. And Cole works himself to a stupor for a paycheck a fraction of the size of his old salary.

Until one day a phone call changes everything.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #CrimeFiction A Woman Of Valor by @garycorbin

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading A Woman Of Valor by Gary Corbin

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This novel combines the police procedural (a rookie policewoman following in the footsteps of her uncle, who was more of a father and hero figure for her than her own father, joins the police local police force, learns the difference between the books and the streets, and tries to catch a criminal that brings back memories she’d rather forget) with subjects and themes more common in women’s fiction (the protagonist was sexually abused as a child and despite her best efforts is still affected by the experience; she has to confront plenty of prejudice and sexism in the police force, has a difficult relationship with her father, and can’t help compare herself to her best friend, who seems to have a much easier and happier life than hers). The author manages to make the mix of the two genres work well, providing plenty of details of how the local police force works that felt quite realistic (and the language and descriptions of the characters, narrated in the third-person —mostly from the point of view of the protagonist— seem straight out of a police report), and demonstrates a good insight into the mind-set of a young woman who has survived such trauma and finds herself confronted by sexist, abusive, and old-fashioned attitudes. (There are small fragments of the book told from some of the other characters’ point of view, also in the third-person, but those are brief, and other than giving us an outsider’s perspective on the main character, I didn’t feel they added much to the plot). Her fight to overcome her difficulties, to take other people into her confidence, and to make meaningful connections, is inspirational and will also feel familiar to readers of literary fiction or women’s fiction.

As mentioned in the description, this book feels, unfortunately, very current, not only because of the abuse (even if the story was originally developed well before #metoo shone some light into the scale of the problem), but also because of the prejudiced attitude of the police towards ethnic minorities (racial profiling is evident throughout the plot), and the way social media can spread falsehoods and fake news, ruining somebody’s reputation only to gain a bit of notoriety. There are plenty of action scenes, chases, and violence (although not extreme) but there are also the slow moments when we see the characters patrolling the streets, making connections with the local gang, or interacting with the locals, and that also felt more realistic than the non-stop frantic rhythm of some thrillers, that seem to never pause for characters to have some breathing space. It shows the work of the police in its various forms, not always running after criminals, but there are also the quiet moments (waiting around, doing research, manning the phones), and when there are actions scenes, these are also followed by consequences that some novels brush over (filling up forms, reporting to Internal Affairs and seeing a having a psychological evaluation after a lethal shooting). Although it is mostly set in a chronological order from the moment Val joins the police force, there are chapters where something makes her remember what happened ten years ago, and we get a flashback from her perspective as a 13 y. o. girl. These interludes are clearly marked in the book, and rather than causing confusion, help us understand what Val is going through and why she reacts as she does to her experiences. She is very closed off, she is insecure, finds it difficult to trust people, men in particular, and struggles to maintain her professionalism when confronted with certain types of criminals. There is much discussion in the book about different types of policemen (I’ll leave you to read about those yourself), and she fights hard to be deserving of her uncle’s memory.

The author is skilled at managing a large cast of diverse characters: Val’s friend, Beth; her father, who is on a slippery-slope of self-destruction; Gil, her partner, a sympathetic and likeable character; the other policemen in the team, including her superiors (more enlightened than most of the other men), the other women in the force (and there are wonderful scenes of sisterhood between the women), her brother, sister-in-law and her cute little niece (obsessed with becoming a policewoman like her aunt), the members of an African-American gang (who although tough and engaged in criminal activities, live by their own code of honour), a blogger with inside information who is happy to distort the truth… and of course, the nasty criminal, who has no redeeming features. Even those who play a small part are realistically portrayed and add to the atmosphere and the realism of the novel. This is not one of those books that take place in a city but feel as if only four or five people were living there. We see neighbours, the owners of businesses, and we also have a good sense of the connections between the local police force and the others in the same county and state.

On reading the author notes after the novel, I felt quite touched by the story behind it, and understood why it feels so personal, despite this being a novel with a main female character written by a male author. In the acknowledgements, the author thanks several members of law enforcement for their expertise and advice, which he has incorporated well into the novel, and the book contains a list of questions that should prove particularly useful for book clubs.

In my opinion, this is a novel that includes a solid plot, with a main bad character (who is truly bad) all readers will hate, some lesser unlikeable characters (the blogger, many of the other policemen Val comes across), some intrigue (who is feeding inside distorted information to the blogger?, what really happened to Val’s uncle?), a hint of romance (don’t worry, honestly. This is not a romantic novel), sympathetic characters easy to engage with and root for, even if we might have very little in common with them, particularly Val and Gil, and a more than satisfying ending.

As I said, I read an early ARC copy of the book, so there might be some minor changes in the final version. This is a book that contains some violence, shootings, and sexual abuse of young girls (and although not extremely explicit, I am aware this could be a trigger for some readers).

Book description

For Valorie Dawes, #metoo means #fightback.

Rookie policewoman Valorie Dawes has a mission: take men like Richard Harkins, a serial child molester, off the streets of her small hometown of Clayton, CT—for good. Things start off well as Val’s trusted senior partner and mentor, Gil, shows her the ropes and helps her survive the nastiness they encounter on the streets–and in the chauvinistic office politics at the precinct.

Despite Gil’s support, Val becomes increasingly isolated within the department and vilified in the public eye as reckless and incompetent. In response, she devotes all of her time and energy to chasing Harkins, but he proves to be both elusive and cruel, continuing to victimize young girls and pressing his threats closer and closer to Val’s own inner circle.

Can Valorie overcome the trauma she suffered as a child and stop Harkins from hurting others like her—or will her bottled-up anger lead her to take reckless risks that put the people she loves in greater danger?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Mystery The Head In The Ice by @RichardNJames

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading The Head In The Ice by Richard James

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From the moment I read the description of this novel, a few weeks before its publication, I knew I’d end up reading it. I love mysteries, have been reading historical fiction in recent times and with my background in criminology, a mysterious murder set in the Victorian era ticked many boxes. To top it all, the main character, and the protagonist of the series, Inspector Bowman, had been in a lunatic asylum. As I’m also a psychiatrist and have read and enjoyed books looking back at the history of psychiatry, this was a further inducement, if I needed one. Of course, the title and the cover of the book worked in its favour.

I’ll try not to dwell too much on the story and the plot itself, to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you the book is a fine mystery that lived up to my expectations, and even surpassed them in many ways.

The style of the story and the way is told put me in mind of watching a movie (or a play, which I know is a genre the author is very familiar with, although here we have many more settings than in a standard play). The author uses an omniscient point of view, and that means that readers get to see scenes and events from a variety of characters’ perspectives (and not only the good guys either), and sometimes also from a neutral observer’s point of view (that works particularly well to set the scene and also to keep the mystery going, while at the same time offering readers some snippets of information that Bowman and his team do not have). That is an excellent method to avoid revealing too much while offering the readers great insights into the characters’ thoughts and motivations, but I know not everybody likes stories told this way, and I’d advise people to check a sample of the book to see if it is a good fit, in case of doubt. Personally, I did not find the way the story was told at all confusing, although due to the nature of the case and to the many characters, it is necessary to pay close attention and make sure not to miss any details. (Perhaps adding a cast of characters might help readers get their bearings quickly).

In some books that type of point of view might result in difficulty getting attached to any of the characters, but I did not think that was the case here. Although we get many points of view, the main one we follow is that of the Bowman, and because the inspector is the first character we meet, and in pretty difficult circumstances (he is a resident at a lunatic asylum just about to go in front of the board that must decide if he’s ready for his release), we quickly establish a connection with him. He is a sympathetic and intelligent character, who has suffered a personal tragedy that has resulted in mental health difficulties (nowadays, I’d say he would be diagnosed, most likely, with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), and who tries hard to get on with his life, despite his anxiety, flashbacks, and the complex and emotionally challenging nature of his work. He is not the perfect and flawless here, but a human being with flaws and weaknesses. His flashbacks, the physical symptoms he experiences, and his fragile mental state are well drawn and are, for me, one of the strongest points of the book. I also enjoyed the depiction of the asylum and its therapies, far from the ones we often see and read about in popular media that seem right out of a horror movie. There are other characters to root for as well, although not quite as fleshed out as Bowman, and even some of the baddies are individualised enough for readers to get a fair idea of who they are.

The novel also succeeds at creating a picture of the London of the era, the atmosphere of the different neighbourhoods, the asylum, Scotland Yard, the underworld, without going overboard with descriptions and details or slowing the action. It is a compelling and historically accurate portrayal of a time, and one that goes beyond the anecdotal to dig deeper into some of the unsavoury aspects of the era.

The plot is gripping, and we visit upper-middle-class locations, pubs, sewers, cemeteries, bridges, a lunatic asylum, a ship, Bengal, and we get to learn about laudanum, poisons, laws, Victorian trade, weapons, the criminal underworld of the era (including murders, robberies, prostitution…), and although we learn enough information to get suspicious about the guilty party (or parties) fairly early on, there are quite a few twists and turns, strange goings on, and we don’t get to understand how it all fits together until close to the end (we might have our suspicions but…). There are some red herrings thrown in, and even a suggestion of the supernatural. All in all, the atmosphere, the characters, and the plot, work well to create a solid story, a great opening to a new series of Victorian mysteries, and one that allows us to examine the laws, mores and morality of the era.

If I had to take issue with anything, other than the point of view that I think works well but some readers might not feel comfortable with, I felt that, at times, some of the experiences, tics, and behaviours characters engage in (clearing one’s throat, blowing smoke into someone’s face, etc.) are repeated fairly often, and that put me in mind of stage directions or business that actors have to engage in to indicate certain traits of a character, which might not be as relevant or necessary when we can share in their thoughts directly. I did not find it distracting and, like some of the side stories, I felt they helped readers catch their breath and regroup, but those who prefer stripped down and action-led plots might feel they could be slimmed down.

In sum, this is a great story that I’d recommend to those who enjoy mysteries within a historical setting (Victorian in this case), with a complex story full of compelling characters and plenty of atmosphere. I look forward to the next adventure of Inspector Bowman, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one.

Book description

Who would send a madman to solve a murder?

Just released from a Lunatic Asylum, Inspector George Bowman is in no shape to lead an investigation, but the discovery of a severed head in the frozen waters of the River Thames sees him back in service at Scotland Yard. As he delves into the dark heart of the city in search of answers, the memory of the death of his wife threatens to derail his investigation and place his very sanity in peril.

Bowman must confront his demons and the part he played in her demise before he can solve the case; a case that leads him across Victorian London in pursuit of a killer.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview #Team #RBRT Political #Humour Seagulls Over Westminster by @wadecomply

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Seagulls Over Westminster by Richard Wade

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This is a novel set in the near future (2024-5) in the UK, focusing on politics, although I’d say that it is the equivalent of what a cozy mystery represents for the mystery genre. It has a light and humorous undercurrent; it does not go to extremes or deals in the most serious aspects of the topic; it is unlikely to offend most readers, and it does not touch on any of the burning and most controversial UK political issues (Brexit, for example). The author explains his reasons for his choice, and you can make of them what you wish.

There is a mix of characters, some more likeable than others, involved in the political race. In my opinion, Harry is the most likeable of them all, probably because he is honest and sincere, he gets reluctantly involved in politics, and as a retired man, fond of his family and with no evident major character flaws, and it is easy to root for him. Alistair has good and bad points, but I think most readers are bound to feel bad for him, and he does not have the necessary traits to ever become a political success. Bradley is the least likeable, although at some points during the book one might wonder if he is not as bad as he seems (and he is far from some of the totally ruthless individuals we are used to reading about in hard political thrillers). There are some secondary characters that are not on stage long enough for us to get to know them well but they give more variety to the novel and include some intriguing and even menacing elements. I don’t think an expertise on the UK political situation or institutions is necessary to read this book, although I suspect that the novel will be more enjoyable to people familiar and interested in UK politics.

This is a book of the time, and social media and media in general play a big part in the political process, seriously affecting the public’s perception, with revelations about the candidates being leaked as a way of trying to manipulate the results, secrets being revealed left, right, and centre (politically as well). But, as I said, this is a gentle book and even the revelations and the corruption that is unearthed is pretty mild compared to some recent scandals, and it is unlikely to truly shock or repel people (it is no hard-core political invective or exposé). Although some pretty dark goings-on are hinted at, it is never clear who was truly behind them and if any of the political candidates was truly involved, leaving this element of the story open to readers’ interpretations.

The book feels somewhat old-fashioned, even though it is set in the future, and although there are quite a number of female characters, most of them don’t play a central part in the story (and the one who does, and perhaps the most interesting of the characters, has doubtful motivations that stem from her relationships with a particular man), and either disappear early in the book or are part and parcel of a man’s campaign. Saying that, they come up quite well compared to most of the male protagonists, and they are often the ones pulling the strings from behind the curtains.

The story is entertaining, and having lived in Brighton and being familiar with the area, I particularly liked the local touch and the detailed background into local UK politics. I also liked the emphasis on the role of social media and media in general, Harry and his background in local radio (I love local radio and I also volunteer at a local radio station), and some of the most outrageous suggestions of future changes to politics (like the fact that rather than having names, the parties would become either the GOP or the OP, the Government Party or the Opposition Party, regardless of alliances or ideology, to ensure neutrality). It is also difficult not to read this book and think of possible candidates that would fit right into the roles, and worry that, no matter how humorous, what happens might be uncomfortably close to the truth.

The writing flows easily, creating a good sense of who the characters are, and in some cases making us feel touched and close to their experiences (I did feel pretty sorry for Alistair). The author has a light touch and is skilled at managing a fairly large cast of characters without causing confusion or overwhelming the reader.

An entertaining and gentle book that pokes fun at UK politics, unlikely to offend anybody with a sense of humour. An amusing and fun read for a day when we don’t want to take politics too seriously.

Book description

A political thriller for our time, but with a strand of gentle humour woven through it, making this intriguing story into an entertaining page turner.

Its 2024. Popular TV chat show host, and former MP, Bradley Deakin is the man wanted by the Opposition Party of the day to lead them back to power, breaking the chain of endless hung parliaments and uninspiring political leaders. They just need to get him elected first.

Meanwhile, in Brighton, retired bank manager Harvey Britten is enjoying life with the three things he loves most – his family, the city of his birth and his beloved football team, Brighton and Hove Albion, (known locally as The Seagulls). His support for the team has led to a regular spot on the local radio breakfast show, which has turned him into something of a minor celebrity.

It proves very difficult to find Bradley a suitable by-election until one unexpectedly occurs in Brighton. But Harvey strongly objects to a big shot candidate like Deakin being parachuted into his city and is reluctantly persuaded by his family and radio listeners to stand against him as a protest candidate. But only in the knowledge that he won’t actually win!

The race is otherwise between Bradley and the Government party candidate, Alistair Buckland, a local Councillor with a big secret. But as the campaign is gradually engulfed in scandal and conspiracy theories, it throws the whole contest wide open. Can a high class call girl with a plan for revenge change the outcome? Just how far did Bradley and his team go to cause the by-election in the first place? Will Harvey’s worst nightmare come true, in that he might actually win? And how bad does it have to get for a candidate before their loyal party supporters will refuse to vote for them?

As each candidate increasingly has to defend themselves against more and more serious accusations, both they and the people they love soon realise that there’s far more at stake for them all than just who will end up winning the election.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Memoir Pointe Patrol: How nine people saved their neighborhood by @EarikB

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Pointe Patrol by Earik Beann

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This is an inspiring book and a fascinating account of what happened to a group of people who were fortunate enough (with a fair amount of human help as well) to have their houses survive a terrible fire that killed forty-four people, burned over 245000 acres and cost at least $9.5 billion in insured damages (and around $85 billion to the US economy). As the author notes, these group of people were not all house owners (he and his wife, Laura, were renting, and so were a number of the people who formed the #Pointe Patrol), but they somehow took it upon themselves to keep the neighbourhood safe.

The story reads like one of those fiction books (or movies) where a bunch of people —who have little in common and are pretty normal— discover their inner heroes and come together achieving great things. Only, this is not a fictional account. Yes, these are pretty normal people, and although some knew each other from before, the author makes the point more than once that due to his job, mostly online, he did not have much contact with the neighbours, and it is his wife who comes up with the idea of creating a chat group for the neighbours that they use to keep everybody informed of what is happening, both the people who have managed to return to the evacuated area, like they have, and also those who are outside and whose houses are still standing. As we read, we learn information about the neighbours, although not necessarily in a lot of detail (some are stubborn, some are control freaks, other have an interesting sense of humour, they are not always truthful…), and we also hear some of their opinions and prejudices (yes, we might not always agree with their politics, with their ideas on certain subjects) and, thankfully, they are not perfect. Earik and his wife are ‘the yoga people’, and other than some regular get-togethers, many of them knew each other only superficially, if at all. There is also a couple who remain in the area and never participate in any of the general efforts, and they sound quite disagreeable. So this is not an idealised version of reality, although it is an inspiring story that illustrates that people can get on when they have a sense of purpose and a mission higher than themselves, and they all work together towards a goal.

Saying that, it is difficult to read the book and not think that it would make a good TV movie. You have the retired fire-fighter, stubborn and determined, who ends up being known as Chief, you have another neighbour who works in the SQUAT team, Wayne, Eddie, who turns his garage into the neighbourhood coffee-shop and bar, two Mikes, the police and the national guard, Oscar —Earik’s Doberman, who loves his new role as proper guard dog—, their two cats, and also the people outside who keep in touch via text and provide as much support as they can with food supplies, medications, and also updates on news and life in general.

I was surprised at times at how vivid a picture the book portrays of the situation, and how, despite the fact that they are pretty much isolated and become, as the author describes it more than once, ‘a tribe’, the bigger society and its trappings interferes every so often, giving everybody reason to pause. There are the looters, always trying to get in and rob whatever they can, there are times when the reactions of the police to different individuals vary a lot depending on who they are (yes, race do matters, even in emergency situations, it seems), and although in this case the emergency seems to get the best out of this group of people, that is not the case with everybody involved.

Is there anything I didn’t enjoy? Well, the story is told from the author’s perspective, and as can happen with memoirs, it is not written as a thriller where action is everything and no extraneous information is offered. The author sometimes goes off on tangents, including information about his and his wife’s personal circumstances (they had moved very often up to that point), stories about their cats and dogs, also about how to handle a big dog, his point of view on firearms (not one I share, and the arguments he uses to try to convince his wife would definitely not convince me), a long dissertation on a particular local beer and its merits, and some pretty personal things, and although I mostly enjoyed those and they made it come more alive for me, I suspect they might be frustrating for some people, and I’ve read some reviews that mention those.

My other worry was the fact that, no matter how well they did and the amazing thing they achieved, their circumstances were very special, and it is not something that everybody should consider if faced with a similar situation. They had a retired fireman living in the neighbourhood, and they were lucky enough to have a sufficient number of neighbours taking part, with necessary materials, water, and enough outside support to manage to pull it off. (I could not help but wonder what would have happened if that was not the case and how different the results might have been in a neighbourhood without resources, financial and otherwise). Basically, keep safe and follow advice. Readers might take issue with other things: there is no gender equality at work here (Laura is the only woman there, she leaves at some point, and the rest of the women are supporting from outside, although there are policewomen and a woman member of the National Guard as well, but not members of the group), and, as I mentioned, some of the personal attitudes and comments might not be to everybody’s taste, but that is understandable when we are reading a true account, rather than a fictional one.

I enjoyed the narration, and felt as if I had shared in some of the sense of community and joint purpose of the group. I also enjoyed the off-track comments (some), learning more about how the emergency services work and are organised, and I loved Oscar and the cats as well. The fact that the profits for the sale of the book will go to support fire victims and to the families of fallen first-responders is another good reason to recommend the book. If you’re looking for an inspiring true-account of people dealing with an emergency situation, and you are fascinated by community spirit, I definitely recommend this.

Book description

On October 9, 2017, California suffered one of the most destructive fires in its history. The Tubbs Fire burned 5,643 structures and killed twenty-two people in Sonoma County. The fire department was completely overwhelmed and was so busy trying to save lives that they had to let many houses burn rather than waste resources in trying to protect them. During this chaos, nine of us snuck back into our neighborhood in the mandatory evacuation zone and formed a vigilante fire force. We called ourselves the Pointe Patrol, and saved our neighborhood, as well as an apartment complex across the street from certain destruction.

As if the fires weren’t enough, we found ourselves in the midst of anarchy, with looters running unchecked through the streets. We chased them out of houses with shovels, confronted them when they showed up in disguise, and patrolled the area with a completely over-the-top Doberman. The other neighbors who had evacuated organized themselves into our support network and supplied us with food and equipment, which they passed through to us across the police lines. My wife and I were part of that nine-person team and experienced all of this firsthand. This is the story of what happened at Viewpointe Circle during those two weeks in October.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Horror Novella A Plague Of Pages by @john_f_leonard

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading A Plague Of Pages by John F. Leonard

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If you love the Friday the 13th series, The Conjuring, The Twilight Zone, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, you’re likely to enjoy this. But, this is horror, and this story, goes into fairly gore detail.

I won’t spend too long rehashing the plot of the story. Anthony is a man who’s lost everything (well, not quite everything, as it turns out), and decides to try his hand at writing. Well, we’ve all been there (not perhaps having lost everything, but thinking about becoming a writer). That he decides to go old school and use pen and paper is more surprising, but his father dealt in antiques and he has an interesting heirloom to put to good use. Or bad. Of course, things take a turn for the weird soon enough.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from Anthony’s point of view, although, interspersed in the novella are some chapters that follow the investigation into a very strange streak of crimes. In fact, the book starts with one of the most bizarre crime scenes I’ve come across (and yes, I read a lot of thrillers, so that’s saying something). A word of warning: if you are of a sensitive nature, especially when it comes to libraries and librarians, you should look away. But don’t worry. I won’t describe it. Those chapters of the story, told from the point of view of Detective Sergeant Shadwell, Adi, read like a standard thriller, with the case-worn detective, the less than politically-correct policeman, the uninterested boss, and will probably feel familiar to those who read in that genre. Adi is a likeable character and shows a good deal of patience and resilience, but we don’t get to know him too well. This is a novella, after all, and most of it is taken up by Anthony’s events. You’ll probably suspect that the two seemingly separate parts of the story are interconnected in some way or other, even though the first chapter is set up “After the Handfield Tragedy” (yes, foreshadowing or what?) , and then we go back several months to get to the main action of the book. After that opening, we take up the story of Anthony, which starts innocuously enough, like many other stories you might have read about people who’ve lost everything and quickly fall into a hole, unable to find a way of slowing their downward spiral. But there is the pen, and strange things start happening quickly.

Although the story and the cards he has been dealt might make Anthony sound sympathetic, and he experiences things that would have made anybody feel unhinged, this feeling, at least for me, did not last long. Yes, he protested and claimed to be shocked for what he might have unwittingly caused, but it soon became evident that he showed no true empathy for anybody he met, and he was more preoccupied for himself and his own safety than for that of others. He seems to always think in clichés, platitudes, popular and old sayings, and proverbs, as if he did not have a single original thought in his head, and when we hear from his father, it seems that this is a family trait. As was the case in the previous story, it seems that the objects belonging to the Dead Boxes choose their owners well, indeed, and seem able to dig deep into the characters’ psyche and uncover less than flattering characteristics.

I enjoyed the story, although as was the case with the previous one, I wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t enjoy horror or graphic violence. It is not a story likely to make you jump, but it builds up pace, and the events get more horrific as you read on (well, after the shocking start). The interim chapters from the point of view of the investigator (also written in the third person) give the reader a bit of a break, a touch of normalcy, although due to the nature of the crimes, this is relative.

I felt this novella is more likely to satisfy readers who like a sense of closure and explanation than Call Drops. We get more information about the item itself, and there are hints at the full mythos behind the Dead Boxes, which grabbed my attention.  And the ending… Well, readers have known from the beginning that something big was coming, but not necessarily what. Yes, it worked for me.

Because this is a short novella, I don’t want to share too many quotes from it because it would make it difficult not to give away too many spoilers, but I thought I’d close with this short one, which for me encapsulates a warning we should all pay attention to:

There was always a cost. That was how everything worked. Supernatural or humdrum day to day. It was all the same. You could get some goodies so long as you were willing to pay.

Leonard delivers again. I look forward to more stories from the Dead Boxes Archive.

Book description

Ah, the perils of writing …it can bring out the worst in you.
Anthony’s world has fallen apart. The good times have gone, the things he treasures have been torn away. Life in tatters, he needs to press the reset button and begin again. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
He’s going to pursue his dream of becoming a writer.
Trouble is, some dreams turn into nightmares.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Thriller NOT HERE by Genevieve Nocovo @GNocovo

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Not Here by Genevieve Nocovo

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This is the first novel published by this author, and although it might not be to everybody’s taste, I found it an intense and gripping book that deals with important topics. And I was fascinated by the portrayal of the protagonist.

I was intrigued by the description of the novel because I do like the promise of a strong protagonist (although it does not always work, I did like Dina), and because the topic promised something a bit different to the usual thriller. No serial killer, no small-town setting, but a narrative closely linked to a time, a place, and a social issue. Any reader who lives, or has lived, in a city, knows how expensive it is to secure accommodation in a safe neighbourhood, and what a cut-throat world property development can be. In this novel, set in San Francisco, that is literally so. The fact that the protagonist was trying to make a name for herself in the world of podcasting, added to the interest for me, as I’ve always interested in radio and, in my mind at least, podcasts are closely linked to the immediacy of radio, especially to the programmes broadcast by local radio stations.

The story is told in the third person from Dina’s point of view. And it is a very interesting choice, because at times it feels like a first-person narrative (there are plenty of descriptions, although brief, of things like the clothes the protagonist is wearing, and the drinks she makes… She likes tea, and I’d dare say her choice of tea at any point is a clear indication of what her mental state is like at the time); it manages to capture perfectly the tone of character’s thoughts, her fears and anxieties, gives readers a good insight into her mind and feelings, while at the same time offering an outside perspective, an observer’s point of view. I might be stretching it here, but I felt that this is the way Dina sees herself. She is a young woman who has undergone a very traumatic experience and went through a period of depression following it. Now, determined to survive and get back on her feet, but also to never be a victim again, she is always on alert, observes things and people around her, never quite trusting what they say, or her own actions and reactions, second-guessing others and her own motives, ready to flee at the slightest hint of risk, but working hard to rebuild her life. She is not going to take it lying down. She joins a gym and self-defense classes (well, an interesting combination of martial arts and fighting that introduces action scenes and another setting that proves very important to the story). She is determined to make her podcast a success and wants to pursue stories that are important for the people around her, rather than those that might bring her commercial and financial success. Although she is cautious, due to her previous experience, she puts others’ needs ahead of hers, and never hesitates to step up to help others and offer her support, even when it might be dangerous. Her reactions to what happens to her in the story (that, in a way, mirrors her abuse, at least in her head) are totally believable and they match the defence mechanisms she has put in place.  I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but I feel survivors of domestic violence and abuse might find it a hard read. On the other hand, she has moments of desperation but she never gives up fighting, and she is a compelling and inspiring human being rather than a one-dimensional cut-out.

I felt the psychological side of the story, and the insights into Dina’s thoughts and reactions were very well done —there is no magical cure here, no saviour that comes along and sorts everything for our protagonist, and she does not fall for the first person coming along either, no matter how attractive he might be— and although some of the story elements stretch somewhat the imagination (and test the suspension of disbelief, but when we think about true stories we have heard or read, we soon realise that they are not as far-fetched as at first they might appear), the author manages to create a compelling and cohesive story from diverse strands: the world of podcasting, the city and property development, homelessness and crime in San Francisco, abuse and domestic violence, cage-fighting, police corruption, local government conspiracies…

This is not a light read, and there are hardly any moments when the tension loosens up. No light relief present either, and readers need to be prepared to experience a gamut of uncomfortable emotions, that succeed each other at a fast —take-no-prisoners– pace, especially towards the end of the novel.  I’ve mentioned already the descriptions that might not suit all readers. The author ignores Stephen King’s warning about adverbs, and although I have never been too worried about it, I admit it might give one pause, especially when they stray away from the most neutral and commonly used. But other than that, the book is written in straightforward style, it flows well, and it shows a good knowledge of the city and the topics without going overboard and “telling” too much.

I’d recommend this book to people looking for a different kind of thriller and a strong female survivor as a protagonist. Not a superhero, but a young woman determined to make it and an inspiration for readers familiar with these feelings and experiences. I kept thinking about Chinatown as I read this novel (perhaps because of the focus on local politics and speculation) and although it is set in a different city and historical time, if you enjoyed the plot of that story, love San Francisco, and are keen on a dark urban setting, you should try it. I can see this author going from strength to strength, and as this is the first in the series, I look forward to seeing what Dina does next.

Book description

Would you surrender your free will to save your life? 
A city in turmoil. A neighbor disappears. When her concerns are written off, Dina investigates on her own — and becomes a target, at the mercy of those in control…
In San Francisco, where the poor are systematically displaced by well-off yuppies, Dina Ostica is part of the problem. The damaged, determined twenty-three-year-old scrambles to make a name for herself in the burgeoning world of podcasting, with the city as her muse. She is hell-bent on professional success, thinking it will mend her broken spirit.
But when her go-to source on local history disappears without warning, she begins to uncover an uncanny pattern that hits too close to home, getting her tied up in the city’s underbelly.
What follows is a gritty tale of exploitation, betrayal, and the strength one needs to survive the whims of those in power.
Will Dina escape or fall victim to the injustice chewing up the city?

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT Olga reviews Psycological #thriller Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr.

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Justice Gone by N. Lombardi Jr.

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This is not an easy book to categorise, and it could fit into a number of classifications, but it goes beyond the standard examples many of the readers of some of those genres are used to come across. When I heard about this book, my interest was piqued by several elements: the book features as one of its main characters a female therapist who has specialised in counselling war vets (many of them suffering from PTSD), and as a psychiatrist (and I did work with military personnel, although not from the US) I’m always intrigued by the literary portrayals of psychologists and psychiatrists and of mental health difficulties. There is a mystery/thriller element, and because I’m an eager reader (and writer) of those genres, I’m always keen to explore new authors and approaches. The novel also promised a close look at the US judicial system, and having studied criminology and the British Criminal Justice system, that aspect of the book was also intriguing. Could the novel deliver in so many levels?

Dr. Tessa Thorpe is an interesting character, and it seems that the author is planning to develop a series of novels around her. She is described as insightful and compassionate, with strong beliefs (anti-war), morals, and a trauma of her own. She is not the perfect professional, and at times her trauma affects her behaviour to a point that I thought would have got her into trouble if she were working in a different environment. We are not given full details of what has happened to her before, but the hints we get through the novel (where other characters in possession of that information refer to it) give us a fair idea. She is much better at dealing with others and understanding what moves them to act as they do than she is at dealing with her own issues, but that is a fairly realistic aspect of the book (although considering how insistent she is in getting others to talk about their difficulties, it is surprising none of the colleagues take her to task). What I was not totally convinced about was the fact that at some point she decides to support the vet going to trial accused of murder, and she leaves her practice and patients unattended for weeks. As she works in a private clinic and we only meet one of her patients, we don’t have sufficient information of her day-to-day tasks, and it’s quite possible that this is not a problem, but it felt counterintuitive to me. Tessa plays an central part in the plot in more ways than one, because although she is an expert in some aspects, she is totally new to what happens in other parts of the novel, like court procedures, and at those points she works as a stand-in for the readers, asking for clarifications and being walked through the process in detail.

The mystery and thriller elements, as I said, are dealt with differently to in many other books. The novel starts at an earlier point than many of the books that give advice to writers would recommend. It does not start in the middle of the action, or the crime (what the real crime is here is one of the main questions). We get the background to the events, down to the phone call to the police about a homeless man, which gets the ball rolling at the very beginning of the book. The police, who have been fed the wrong information, end up beating the man, a war-vet, to death. This causes a huge uproar, and we hear about the way the authorities try to sweep it all under the carpet, then the apparent revenge killing of the three policemen, the chase of a suspect, the hair-raising moment when he gives himself up (with some help from the doctor and others), and then we move onto the court case. There are moments where the book leans towards the police procedural, and we get plenty of details about the physical evidence, the investigation and those involved, we witness interrogations, we are privileged to information even the police don’t have, we get red herrings, and dead ends. The ending… there is a twist at the end, and although some might suspect it is coming, I was so involved in the court case at that point that I had almost forgotten that we did not know who the guilty party was.

I think this is one of the books I’ve read in recent times that best manages to bring to life a US court case, without sparing too many details and at the same time making it gripping. I will confess that the defense attorney, Nathaniel Bodine, is my favourite character, one of those lawyers who will happily cross the line for their client, and he seems, at times, a much better psychologist (and manipulator) than the doctor is. The judicial process is realistically reflected and at times it reads as if it were a detailed film or TV script, with good directions and fantastic dialogue.

And, we also follow the deliberations of the jury, in a few chapters that made me think of Twelve Angry Men, a play I remember watching many years back, although in this case we have a more diverse jury (not twelve men and not all Caucasian) and a more complex case. I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the novel as well, and I could clearly see the interaction between the sequestered jury in my mind’s eye. (It would make a great film or series, as I have already suggested).

The story is told in the third person by an omniscient narrator that at times shows us the events from the point of view of one of the characters, mostly from Tessa’s perspective, but at times from others, like her co-workers or members of the police force. At some points, the story is told from an external and fairly objective perspective (like the jury deliberations); although at times we glimpse the personal opinions of that unknown narrator. I know readers dislike “head-hopping”, but I was never in any doubt about whose point of view I was reading, and the alternating perspective helped get a more rounded view of events and characters. Although the style of writing is factual and to the point (some of the descriptions reminded me of police reports, in their matter-of-factness), that does not mean the book fails to produce an emotional reaction on the reader. Quite the opposite. Rather than emphasising the drama by using over-the-top prose, the author lets the facts and the characters’ actions talk for themselves, and that is much more effective, in my opinion.

I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a mystery/thriller/police procedural novel which does not obey by the rules and is keen to engage readers in controversy and debates that go beyond a standard genre novel. (The author explains he was inspired to write this book by an incident not dissimilar to the death of the veteran at the hands of the cops at the beginning of the novel). The novel goes into more detail than most readers keen on those genres will be used to, and also follows the events from the very beginning to the very end. This is not a novel only interested in thrilling readers by highlighting the action scenes and ignoring the rest. Readers who always feel there are aspects of a story missing or underdeveloped will love this book, and also those who like complex characters (plenty of grey areas here) and a story that lives beyond the page. I also see book clubs enjoying a great discussion after reading this book, as there is much to debate and ponder. An accomplished novel and the first of a series that we should keep a close eye on.

Book description

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge? Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. N Lombardi Jr. is the author of compelling and heartfelt novel The Plain of Jars.

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