Dead Gone by Luca Veste

Dead GoneDead Gone

by Luca Veste
Series: Murphy and Rossi, #1

Paperback, 404 pg.
Avon, 2014

Read: February 13, 2017

They say you get used to it. One victim becomes another. An endless array of body parts lit up, wounds, scars blood. If you deal with death all the time, you develop a gallows humour, dark jokes passed around.

Murphy knew differently. When it was bad as this, there was no levity to be found. You got on with the job, and hoped to catch whoever did it before it happened again.

In most series, we’d meet DS Laura Rossi as she joins the detectives, probably partners up with DI David Murphy (who we might have known for a book o more already), we get to know her as she gets to know the job and Murphy. Murphy’s a good detective with some interesting choices in his personal life, she’s an eager (and educated) rookie tied to her family in ways she wouldn’t prefer. Then in the next book, we see a mix of tragedy, crime and bad timing wreak havoc on Murphy’s personal life and it spills over to his career. Now, in Dead Gone, he’s trying to put his life back on track, recovering from whatever career setbacks he’s stumbled into with the help of his sometimes partner and boss.

But Veste jumps us right into book 3 without the foundation work — we get hints (and eventually more than hints) to put it all together — especially as it Murphy’s life becomes fodder for the killer’s taunting of the police. Honestly, I liked that approach. Other writers might not be as successful with it, but Veste pulled it off. You get the idea that Murphy was a really good detective, and if he can get his head back in the game, he will be one again. Rossi is well on the way to being a good one — but she might have hitched her wagon to the wrong mentor.

Oh, yeah, the killer — bodies are starting to show up in Liverpool. Death by multiple means, but left in similar conditions — and with letters attached making references to classic psychology studies — many of which couldn’t be replicated today with contemporary ethical standards. But the killer seems to be taking them further than the original studies. And, well, he’s a serial killer, so ethical research methods aren’t at the height of his concern.

I could’ve used a bit more of Rossi, I liked her as a character, but I enjoyed what we got. I understand that Murphy’s the star of the show, but hopefully she gets a bit more of the focus later on. The rest of the squad is pretty much what you get in any police procedural — I’d be happy if I don’t have to see Det. Bannon ever again, but hopefully he gets what’s coming to him — or a healthy dose of character growth — soon.

Murphy is dealing with a whole mess of personal issues as he’s leading the investigation — but it doesn’t really distract from his work, maybe it even helps it. This is tightly plotted, moves at a good pace — Veste doesn’t waste anything, there’s no fluff, no fat to this prose. Probably because I know there’s another 3 books so far in the series, I didn’t worry about the danger posed to our heroes at any point, but the tension was real. The terror visited upon the victims was more than real — Veste does an outstanding job of getting into the heads of some of the victims without getting exploitative. Too often in serial killer novels the victims are just corpses (or something that’ll be a corpse soon), so no need to really care about them. Not here — and what a nice change of pace that is — they’re people, not props.

This really isn’t a whodunit kind of novel — Veste pretty much gives it away pretty early on. Not that this stops him from dragging a large red herring across the reader’s path. Yeah, it’s pretty obviously a red herring — but he uses it well as such — and then . . . well, let’s just leave it as I didn’t see what he’d do with that particular forage fish after it was clear that the killer they’re hunting for is someone else.

I literally lost sleep staying up to finish this one — dragged myself through the next day at work, leaning on coffee just to seem passably competent. And it was worth it. I will be grabbing the next installment, The Dying Place, very soon.

—–

4 Stars

The Shanghai Moon by S. J. Rozan

The Shanghai MoonThe Shanghai Moon

by S. J. Rozan
Series: Lydia Chin & Bill Smith, #9

Hardcover, 373 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2010

Read: February 16 – 18, 2016


Oh, man . . . things got away from me and I haven’t been able to reconnect with Lydia or Bill for too long now (14 months between books I think) — I missed them. Thankfully, it took no time at all to get back in the groove.

Speaking of breaks, following the shattering events of Winter and Night, Bill Smith pretty much took a break from everything — including Lydia. She understood that but didn’t like it one bit. So when he does come back into he life early on in this book, she doesn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, and makes him jump through a few hoops to get back into her good graces (but not nearly as many hoops as she intended).

But before we get to that, a one-time mentor and occasional colleague, Joel Pilarsky asks Lydia to help with an investigation. Some jewels have recently been uncovered in China, stolen and theoretically brought to New York to be sold. The client wants Pilarsky to track them down — he suggests that he’ll cover the Jewish jewelry shops that might buy them, and hires Lydia to do the same with Chinese jewelers. What makes these jewels special is that they belonged to Jewish refugees in the 1930’s who fled to Shanghai, and were probably owned by the same person who owned a legendary piece of jewelry from that time — The Shanghai Moon. Not that the client, a lawyer focused the recovery of Holocaust items, bothers to mention The Shanghai Moon (she has a lame excuse for that oversight when Lydia brings it up later).

Yes, I did say Jewish refugees in Shanghai. I felt bad about not knowing anything about that until Lydia confessed it was news to her, too. She’s intrigued by this notion — and the story of the owner of these jewels, much of which is preserved in letters she wrote to her mother after fleeing from Europe and are now part of a collection of Holocaust documents. We get these letters to, and read them with Lydia and slowly we’re drawn in to the saga of this poor woman and the Chinese man she marries while Lydia and Joel search for her heirlooms.

The investigation soon focuses on The Shanghai Moon — and the murders that appear to be connected to this crime. Bill returns to Lydia’s life in time to help with this investigation. Before you know what’s happening, we’re immersed in a mystery that stretches over decades and involves Nazis, Communists, Japanese military, NYC Chinese gangs and much, much more. The threads that connect all these to the jewels and the family tied to them are so many in number and complex in nature, that I wouldn’t try to explain it even if it wouldn’t spoil the book.

I didn’t get as invested in the historical material as Lydia did — but i came close, and I think most readers will, too. If for no other reason than Bill and Lydia do. There’s a history professor that the pair interview for some more context that I’d love to meet again (I can’t imagine how that’d happen) — he’s a fun character that’s much better developed than most characters filling his role would be in detective novels.

I don’t know if I’ve liked Lydia’s mom as much as I did in this book before (or enjoyed her as much) — it took Lydia far too long to understand what her mother was doing throughout the novel, and the growth/change it represented, but I thought it was great. I’m actually looking forward to reading about her in the next novel (I’ve never disliked the character, just have never been that interested in her).

Best of all, as normal, was the banter and other types of conversation between Lydia and Bill. I’ve said it before, I’ll probably say it again, but I’d read a couple hundred pages of them just talking over tea and snacks. There was a lot unsaid between them about the months between the novels, but Rozan had them not say it in a great way — and what they said was as good as usual.

Throw in a juicy mystery, good characters and a missing treasure? You’ve got yourself a winner. No surprise that I liked the ninth novel in a series I’ve enjoyed the previous eight in — but that doesn’t make it any less good, it just means that Rozan’s consistently on target. I strongly recommended The Shanghai Moon along with its predecessors.

—–

4 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes

by Sarah Pinborough

Hardcover, 306 pg.
Flatiron Books, 2017

Read: February 21 – 22, 2017


David and Adele have just moved to London to try to get a fresh start — she’s a stay-at-home wife, gorgeous, and seemingly frail — most of all, she’s deeply devoted to her husband. David’s a psychiatrist who might be a bit too fond of his drink, and doesn’t seem to be as devoted to Adele as she is to him. From the get-go we know there’s a few things really wrong with their marriage, and you can tell that finding out just what they are (and if the drinking is really as bad as it seems) is going to be interesting, to say the least.

Louise is a single mom who needs something fun in her life — things are going well for her ex and his girlfriend, and her son is going away for a month with them. Louise doesn’t have a lot going on in here life other than her son — she has pretty much one friend, a part-time job, and a social life that mainly consists of Netflix, cigarettes and wine. She’s our point-of-entry character, the reason we care about anyone else in the book — she’s relatable, she’s fun, she’s real. On a rare night out, Louise meets and kisses a man (David) who later confesses to be married and leaves.

Naturally, the next day Louise meets her new boss — David. They pledge to forget that night and move on professionally. Soon afterwards, Adele runs into Louise and a friendship develops between them — Louise carefully never admitting that she knows Adele’s husband.

Yeah, up to this point, this could be the fodder for a comedy — something that Jennifer Weiner might write, but with a little more edge, and involving people in London. So maybe it’s a dark Helen Fielding feel. Anyhow, Louise’s relationships with each get deeper. And as that happens, the tone gets darker and darker — everyone involved has secrets, and at least two of the people in this triangle aren’t who we think they are. And before you know it, you’ve left Women’s Commercial Fiction and turned the genre corner into Crime Fiction. There is evil or madness — maybe both — at the core of this story, and it’s dark. But the book never goes as far as it could into the darkness — it’s careful about showing it. Just lets it out every now and then, so you know it’s lurking out there.

The story is told from Adele’s and Louise’s perspective — with flashbacks to earlier in Adele’s life. Adele clearly has some problems, but it’s unclear what they really are. It’s tough to know whose perspective on things is more realistic — particularly their competing ideas about David. Eventually, we start to see that one of these women is manipulating the other two in the triangle and their plans are pretty serious.

Pinborough does a masterful job of drawing you into the story, the characters, their destinies — you can’t help but care, and even before things become a psychological thriller, you’ll find yourself very invested into what’s going on with these people and what will happen. Once things become perilous . . . forget it, you won’t be able to tear yourself away from this book. I loved the tone, the character development — Louise is one of my favorite characters of 2017.

Now, for the first 290 pages I was enthralled and was about ready to call this the best thriller I’ve read in months — maybe years. You can understand the hype about this book — why Two Crime Writers and a Microphone devoted an episode to this book, etc. But the last 16 pages . . . I just don’t know. It’s impossible to really discuss these pages without defying my “no spoiler” policy. Let me put it this way, if you can swallow X — you’ll dig the last 16 pages, and your jaw just might drop in the final 6. Me? I choked on X, and was fed up with the last 6. Since I finished it, I can understand what Pinborough was trying to do — and can even make a decent argument defending it. But I don’t like it — and think that even the best argument in her defense is codswallop.

Behind Her Eyes is a really strong book that will grab you, keep you entertained and will give you a conclusion that you’ll talk about for days (at least).

What I want to give it after the last 16 pages:

—–

2 Stars

Buuuut. . . . I think it really deserves this:

—–

4 Stars

2017 Library Love Challenge

No Little Women by Aimee Byrd

No Little WomenNo Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God

by Aimee Byrd
Paperback, 278 pg.
P&R Publishing, 2016

Read: February 12, 2017

This book is — by and large — an examination and critique of contemporary Women’s Ministries, and the materials marketed towards women in a Christian context. Byrd doesn’t call for an abolition of Women’s Ministries — but does want to encourage women and the churches that they’re members of to evaluate these with a greater level of discernment, for churches to work at cultivating and equipping female members the same way they seek to for the males in the congregation.

Byrd examines the warnings Paul gives about those seeking to deceive and lead away women — and the impact that would have on the churches of the First Century (and today!) when they succeeded in drawing away women from the truth. Why does Paul focus on women in this context? Should pastors today do the same? Which leads to a discussion of the proper means and motives for educating the females in a congregation, and the roles that women (and laymen) should have in the ministry of the Church.

Byrd discusses (and critiques) the contemporary concept “ministries” of the Church in contrast to The Ministry of Word and Sacrament. And in that light, examines the role of “Women’s Ministries” (even if she finds the term problematic, it’s what everyone uses, so her discussion needs to use the term) in the Church today. So much goes on in even conservative, confessional churches under the umbrella of Women’s Ministry that diverges from — even flat-out contradicts — the teachings from the pulpits. How did we get to this point, and how does the Church respond to this in ways that will lead us all to maturity without causing harm and disunity in a local congregation?

Byrd doesn’t claim to have all the answers here, but she has some good places to start. One of the biggest ways is to improve the level of involvement from Church Leadership in the Women’s Ministries/Initiatives. Another is to improve discernment in women when it comes to dealing with books/teachings marketed toward them. Byrd devotes a chapter to citing problematic (and worse!) passages in popular books targeted to the Christian Woman Non-Fiction audience, with questions that discerning (or would-be discerning) readers should be asking. She even includes questions that people should be asking about No Little Women!

It should be noted — and stressed — that nowhere does Byrd argue for a change in the Church’s teaching on male/female relationships and roles, female ordination, or anything along those lines — she does argue that we might not be the best at applying those teachings right now.

What makes this book poignant is Byrd’s repeated call — maybe pleading would be a better way of putting it — for Church Officers (Pastors, Elders) to pay attention to the theological and spiritual development and education of the women in their congregations (and the never stated, but obvious, indictment of the all-too-frequent abandonment of their call in this regard). Yes, when it comes to the official and regular Ministry of Word and Sacrament, these officers are doing their duty — but when it comes to the books (and other materials) marketed towards them, the studies they use, the “Women’s Ministries,” etc. — all too often, it’s ignored. Byrd asks for Shepherds and Leaders to step up and help the women in their congregations — and even gives some tips for how they can effectively relate to these oft-neglected parishioners. Do I think most of the men she’s addressing here think they’re ignoring any part their flocks? No (and I doubt Byrd does either), but they sure appear to be.

A quick digression: At one point, Byrd cites statistics saying that Women buy 72% of the Christian Fiction sold and 59% of the Christian Non-Fiction, and another survey stating that Women read twice as much Christian Non-Fiction as men. Seriously? This is rather disheartening. What do Christian men read? Are we (on the whole) an illiterate group? This blog isn’t the proper setting for this question — and I’m sure not the one to answer it, but I hope someone takes this up (Sinclair Ferguson helps to remedy the problem in this small [and 15-year-old] booklet).

Byrd writes in her typical straight-forward manner, in a prose that’s smooth and easy to read. Despite challenging her readers, she never comes across and condemnatory or anything but encouraging. There’s a call to action (sometimes implicit, frequently explicit), but consistently done in a positive manner. Byrd’s seeking to improve how the Church — women, pastors/elders, and laymen — carries out Her mission, not to tear down.

Ultimately, I’m not one of the main target audiences — women and Church Officers — so I had a hard(er) time really getting into sections of this book than I’d like. But as a husband, father of a daughter, and layman concerned with the theological education of his fellow laity — a lot of this book was alarming, yet encouraging. Someone’s taking this seriously — and hopefully she’s raising enough awareness that others will follow suit. You don’t have to be a feminist or ecclesiological revolutionary to be concerned with the state of theological training of Christian women (and everything she says about Women goes for our teens and children) — it’s a matter for all laity to take up. This is as close to a must-read as I can think of.

—–

4 Stars

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

I’ve been trying to finish this since September — thankfully, today being A. Lee Martinez Appreciation Day gave me the motivation.

The Last Adventure of Constance VerityThe Last Adventure of Constance Verity

by A. Lee Martinez
Series: Constance Verity, #1

Hardcover, 384 pg.
Saga Press, 2016

Read: September 8 -12, 2016

“I didn’t think you believed in jinxes,” said Tia.

Connie didn’t.

But she wasn’t so sure that jinxes didn’t believe in her, and they’d had a long, long time to build a grudge.

I go in to a Martinez book assuming I’ll like it, this one took less time than usual for me to know I liked it. Lines like that are just part of why.

Thanks to a gift from a fairy godmother, since she was 7, Constance Verity has been saving the world as she goes on unbelievable adventure after unbelievable adventure — she travels the galaxy, time, alternate realities and all over (and under) the Earth. She’s run into demons, aliens, wizards, killer robots, mad scientists and many more threats — and overcome them all. A couple of decades later, she’s starting to think that she’s missing out on something despite all the excitement. She’s missing out on being ordinary.

Haven’t you saved the world on multiple occasions?”

“That’s what people tell me, but I’m beginning to think that the world isn’t as fragile as all that. The universe got along just fine for billions of years without me. I don’t think it needs me to save it. I think it all works out about the same in the end. Sometimes, I like to think of myself with a dead-end job that I dislike, a husband who is letting himself go, and some ungrateful kids I take to soccer practice. It sounds dreary, but at least it would be my life.”

Connie doesn’t stop to consider if she’s really cut out for ordinary, but if anyone can rise to the challenge of normality, it’s Constance Verity.

So she and her sidekick best-friend, Tia, head out to get that normal life for her. Step 1: Kill her fairly godmother.

I really don’t know what to say about the book beyond this without getting into more details than I ought. I guess I could say a few things about character. Connie is a great character, for someone who’s lived a superhuman life, she’s really human. Tia is incredible — wise, funny, caring, a real good friend. The relationship between the two is almost perfect.

This is a typical Martinez — a strange combination of loony and thoughtful. You can laugh and then be struck by a profound thought within a couple of pages. This is a fun adventure (a handful, really), and a bit of a commentary on heroes, villains, tropes and themes in SF stories (particularly the pulp-ier variety).

This is the first installment in a series — which is something Martinez hasn’t done before — I have no clue how he’ll pull this off, the book ends like I’d expect a Martinez stand-alone to end, so I have no idea how he’s going to follow this up. But I cannot wait to see.

—–

4 Stars

Hunger Makes the Wolf by Alex Wells

Hunger Makes the WolfHunger Makes the Wolf

by Alex Wells

eARC, 326 pg.
Angry Robot, 2017

Read: January 6 – 10, 2016


Let’s just get this out there — this is a very cool novel. If you dig SF that’s not beholden to space ships and lots of future tech — and can even handle a little bit of magic, you’ll want to read this one.

Tanegawa’s World is a little forgotten backwater of a planet — think Tatooine — so forgotten that none of the colonists there really have a clue that there’s an interplanetary government, or what’s going on with any other planet. The company that runs the mines (and by extension, the farming communities that support the mines) runs the whole show. There are organizations of workers in individual towns, and there’s a loose network connecting them, for mutual assistance and support. And then there are the Ghost Wolves — a band of mercenary bikers. They are a law unto themselves, but have strong ties to the miner groups. They may be supported by/sympathized with by most people in the towns, but officially they’re outlaws.

Hob Ravani is the lowest ranked member of the Wolves — she’s made some serious blunders that required her to go through the training/probationary process twice. But she’s a full-fledged member now, and the leader, Nick Ravani (no blood tie, but he gave her his name), seems to trust her, even as he’s still testing her commitment following these blunders. Making a routine run with a couple of other Wolves, Hob finds the body of Nick’s brother lying dead in the sand, shot in the back several times. This discovery — and the ensuing investigation, retaliation, and the side-effects of both — will end up changing Tanegawa’s World and the lives of many of its people in ways that no one can expect.

Which is not to say that this is a big, global story. It’s not. This is about Hob and her immediate circle. They just find themselves (and, eventually, put themselves) in some critical areas — and also don’t realize just what they’re getting themselves into. Mag, the dead man’s daughter, is Hob’s estranged best friend, and will be the favorite character of many readers. There are Geri and Freki — twins who are only slightly senior to Hob when we meet them, they’re not really friends of hers, but they are allies she can count on when she needs to — and on this world, that might be more important. There’s Coyote, who I enjoyed immensely, and a couple of other Wolves that we spend time with, but most aren’t factors in the story. There’s one more person in her circle, the Bone Collector — I’m not even going to try to sum him up in a sentence, but he’s worth getting to know.

On the flip side we have Mr. Green, who is just creepifyin’ (as Mal Reynolds would say), a Weatherman (not like Al Roker) and a couple of cut-throat corporate types who just this side of wearing black hats and twirling their mustaches They are absolutely believable and not cartoon-y, but reek of “bad guy.”

There is something that could be magic going on here — it’s definitely seen as magic by some. It might be radiation-induced mutation. It could be some sort of world-spirit/alien entity doing something to people. It’s tough to say, and it really doesn’t matter — some individuals on Tanegawa’s World possess abilities that others don’t. The ultimate cause of those abilities makes no difference to the story, it’s interesting to speculate about (and to see why various groups adopt their interpretation and how they use it) — but at the end of the day, it just means that there are a few characters walking around with extra abilities which don’t define them, but are definitely helpful.

The plotting is good, the pacing is strong, and there’s a strong voice throughout the work. This is just an impression — I can’t quote anything to verify it (were I a professional, I’d make the effort), but while the voice is consistent and strong throughout, I think Wells is a bit more aggressive about it in the opening chapters. In sort of a “come on strong and get you into the world” then dial back to “now here’s the story.” Or maybe it’s “throw you into the deep end” and then let you swim undisturbed. Or maybe I acclimatized Or maybe I should stop trying to make this point and move on. My overall point on voice — both the narrative voice, and the individual characters — it that it was strong, clear and engaging — the kind that you want to spend 300 pages with. Wells demonstrates the chops to keep and build an audience, if they’ll just give the book a shot.

I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Dune and this world — I’ve never been able to get through much of the first book, and nor the adaptations — so I can’t comment. There’s a lot of sand, so, I guess maybe. Tanegawa’s World feels like something out of O’Keefe’s Scorched Continent or Firefly — a mining/agricultural society in what might as well be the Old West with (some) better technology than we have. Arguably, this planet is a little less hospitable to humans and The Powers That Be are a shade more corrupt.

I’ve also seen a lot of talk about the biker gang aspect of the book. It didn’t feel as prominent as I’d have liked — it was there, but it didn’t seem that vital to the nature of the mercenary crew the Ravani leads. If I had to compare it to anything, the Ghost Wolves felt more like a UF werewolf pack than anything else. That may say more about what I’ve been reading than anything that Wells wrote, still I got more of a Briggs/Vaughn/etc. vibe to the group than a Kurt Sutter-vibe. Outside of a handful of individual members, I didn’t get a clear feel for the Wolves. It’s understandable, Wells had a lot balls in the air and was doing just a good job juggling them that I didn’t notice. In retrospect, however, I’d have appreciated a little more time with this aspect.

I feel like I’ve gone on too long here, but I haven’t touched all the things I want to say. There’s just so much going on in these few hundred pages! Despite all that, you don’t get bogged down in the worldbuilding, the details, the backstories, or anything — Hunger Makes the Wolf is a fun, fast, gripping read. I trust there’s a sequel on the way. There just has to be. Not that this isn’t a complete story — there’s just a lot of threads that beg to be picked up. Either way, you’ll want to read this one.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Angry Robot via NetGalley in exchange for this post — thanks to both for this opportunity.

—–

4 Stars

Mostly Human by D. I. Jolly

Mostly HumanMostly Human

by D.I. Jolly

Kindle Edition, 494 pg.
TinPot Publishing, 2016

Read: January 2 – 4, 2017


When Alex Harris was 10 years old and visiting his grandparent’s farm in Canada, he is attacked by an injured wolf. He recovers more quickly than the doctor predicts and at the first sign of stress after returning from the hospital, hulks out. But instead of turning green and growing a handful of sizes, he sprouts hair everywhere and his body transforms its shape into a large wolf.

The book follows Alex for the few days following the bite, then high school (learning to cope with the wolf), and then his career as a rock-star. I loved this approach, this way of dealing with the werewolf. Not just Jolly’s way of dealing with the werewolf, but Alex’s family’s way of dealing with his animal form (I’ll keep the details up my sleeve, read it yourself). There’s a lot of emotional ups and downs for Alex — like any pre-adolescent and adolescent male (and, like most rock stars, a post-adolescent male that acts like a teenager) — he’s emotionally volatile, and trying to learn to deal with the world in general. It’s a little harder for him than most teens — thanks to his resistance to injury and disease, and his strength. Once he reaches his adult years, there’s some interesting developments regarding his artistic career and his family’s brush with organized crime.

I love a good werewolf story — I really enjoy a decent one, out of all the various types of Fantasy Creatures/Races/Monsters out there, I don’t think there’s one I enjoy more than a lycanthrope. Mostly Human keeps that streak going.

One of the best parts of this book is how the curse/infection/condition affects not just the human who goes furry every now and then, but everyone around him (whether they know it or not). When Alex was on the farm and initially turned, everyone was supportive and encouraging — just the way a good family should treat a kid going through something major. But then later, when the initial crisis had passed, everyone falls apart (at least for a few minutes). Not en masse or anything, but individually they express some sort of anger or grief, puzzlement, despair, etc. Once that time is passed, they regroup and come together to support Alex. That was so great to see — I’m not sure that there’s anyone I’ve read who shows a family coming together to support the lycanthrope the way this family does.

Alex’s sister, Annabel, is a gem and my only complaint about her is that we don’t get more of the character — and every age and stage. I liked his friends, doctors, and relatives, too — actually, every character that gets more than a handful of paragraphs is well-used and appealing. But Annabel outshines them all.

I don’t have any major concerns or problems with this book — it was a fun escape. Not that it was perfect, there were three things that didn’t work for me, none of them were deal-breakers, but they were things that kept nagging at me.

I have no idea why Jolly felt the need to invent a fictional setting for the Harris’ home — it may become clear in a sequel (which I can only assume is forthcoming), maybe it won’t. I liked the setting, but I don’t see where it helps (it doesn’t hurt). I’d feel better about things if I could figure it out — too much time was spent describing it for it to be a throw-away detail, there’s something to it and I can’t see it.

The first sex scene was more detailed than I really needed — I see where he was going (not just the comedic intent) with it, but still, I didn’t need that. Thankfully, after that, Jolly gave everyone the privacy they deserved when it came sex.

The 10-year old version of Alex doesn’t talk like a 10 year-old. He’d be a stretch at 13. Still, I enjoyed that part of the book so much I shrugged it off.

This was a lot of fun, with a large cast of characters that draw the reader in and keeps you engaged. The story seemed secondary to character development — not just Alex, but his whole family (both officially and those considered family). Yeah, I’d have liked some more of Alex the rock star — and the organized crime thing the book description promised — but what we got was good, and saying that the book was mostly character development isn’t a bad thing. It’s just not what I expected.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

—–

4 Stars