The Puppet Show (Washington Poe #1), by M.W. Craven

Nine stars

Seeking a high-impact thriller, I was told to explore M.W. Craven’s new series, involving a rogue police detective with a penchant for finding the truth in all crimes. I am pleased that I did, for this series debut left me astounded and wanting to learn a little more about DS Washington Poe. The burning of a number of bodies would have been enough to alert the National Crime Agency (NCA) to a problem, but when one victim had the name of former Detective Inspector Washington Poe etched into the torso, the higher-ups knew they’d have to seek some assistance. Poe, on suspension for a major gaffe, is hesitant to assist, though his help with this serial killer is essential. Reinstated with a number of limitations, including a demotion to Detective Sergeant, Poe is put on the case and makes his way back up to Cumbria, where he cut his teeth on police work. Not only has the killer—dubbed Immolation Man—set fire to his male victims, but he has also castrated them and left them to burn in stone circles. Utilising a socially inept analyst, Poe and the rest of the team travel to the region and try tracing any connection between the victims. It is slow going, but certain clues point to events decades in the past. Might the Immolation Man have been plotting for all this time, seeking certain men who are pillars of the community? As Poe pushes, he irks many of those in the chain of command, earning him repeated scoldings, though he is more focussed on the case than any social niceties. When a connection does emerge, it opens a new and equally sadistic narrative that could turn the case on its head. How does Washington Poe play into all of this and will the killer strike again, before the authorities can intercept him and stop the burnings? Craven stuns readers with this compact thriller that refuses to slow down until the final page turn. Recommended for those who enjoy a detailed thriller and readers who need more than light and airy when reading a police procedural.

While I had not read anything by M.W. Craven before, I will certainly change that in the coming months. Craven not only presents a wonderful story, but puts the reader in the middle of things, enveloping them in the darker sides of procedurals and making the narrative seem all the more detailed. Washington Poe is by no means a lighthearted character, though his grit and determination is offset by a desire to be sociable. He knows what needs doing and, at times and can extract all the information he needs by currying favour with those around him, though he is not against ignoring direct orders when it suits him. Poe may not have a significant backstory outside of work, but his dedication to the job and compassion for victims and their families is noted throughout the book. Craven does add an interesting explanation about the source of Poe’s name, which the attentive reader will discover. The other members of the National Crime Agency prove able to complement Poe and contrast nicely with all he does. The various personalities work well to keep the reader involved, without feeling that all work in unison in crime fighting. I can only hope at least a few characters return for Craven’s sequel in this series, as I do want to learn more about them and how they function as a ragtag group. The story was stellar, with strong plot lines and well-established characters to keep the reader interested. Layering criminal acts and retribution throughout the novel allows the reader to see a slow release of information that keeps the story from going stale at any point. I lost myself in the detail and found in all-encompassing at times, which left me wanting more. Thankfully, there is another novel in the series to keep me company, as I want nothing more than to dive right in and see what else Washington Poe has in store for the reader.

Kudos, Mr. Craven, for this strong debut. I will be rushing to get my hands on the second book and eagerly awaiting the third, due in 2020.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Nothing Ventured (William Warwick #1), by Jeffrey Archer

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Jeffrey Archer, and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having loved Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles, I was pleased to see this new series that will have my fellow fans just as excited. Those who remember Harry Clifton and his prodigious career as a writer will remember the William Warwick novels that were the author’s bread and butter. Archer has decided to shed some light on these, writing a series of novels about the man who climbed the ranks of the police service. In this series debut, William has decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps and refuses to read law. Instead, he chooses the path of art history before enrolling in the police academy. After passing his entrance exams, Warwick is sent to the beat, where he garners some much needed experience under the tutelage of a seasoned copper. When given the chance to write the detective’s exam, he soars through the experience and is soon assigned to Art and Antiquities, using his attention to detail and past academic experiences. Warwick has much to learn, but is also tossed out to juggle a number of cases, all of which take him in different directions and has him meeting book forgers, currency schemers, and even traffickers in stolen artwork. While not entirely won over by his son’s choices, Sir Julian Warwick QC can see the benefits to Warwick’s choices and works with him on a side project. It would seem the woman who has caught young DC William Warwick’s eye has a secret she has tried to keep her herself. However, as Warwick grows fonder of Beth Rainsford, he cannot fight the urge to unravel yet another mystery. A brilliant launching pad to what I hope will be a sensational series, Archer does not disappoint readers with this piece. Highly recommended to those who love Lord Archer’s writing style, as well as readers who like a light and fast-paced police procedural series with artistic flavourings.

In my long reading career, I can say that I have long loved every opportunity that I have had to curl up with a Jeffrey Archer novel. His ability to keep the story simple and yet enthralling is second to none, while also developing strong characters and a plot that keeps the reader wanting more. As I mentioned above, this is an interesting project, one in which Archer almost assumes the role of Harry Clifton in crafting these stories that appeared throughout the Clifton Chronicles. William Warwick serves as a wonderful protagonist whose early rise as an officer of the law is documented here. From his passion for police work on the beat through to his intuition and ability to find clues where others fail, Warwick is both in tune with his surroundings and a character worthy of the reader’s attention. The novel portrays both his personal and professional sides, injecting the needed passion in each to develop a well-rounded individual who enriches the larger story. There are many threads left dangling, which Archer will hopefully tie-off or add to in the subsequent novels of the series. Others enrich the story and the plot lines, complementing Warwick where possible, but also developing sub-plots that could emerge in future novels. The story was strong and introduced the reader to this most formidable character. While some may worry that there is a need to know the Clifton Chronicles to read this piece, the Warwick novels are independent of the previous series, though I am sure devout fans of Clifton will see tie-ins when Harry mentioned the novels throughout his time as a protagonist in Archer’s earlier work. A mix of short and longer chapters, as well as Archer’s use of themes from past novels—art, policing, court proceedings—allow this series debut to be one that is sure to garner much discussion and anticipation between novels. I, for one, cannot wait to see how William Warwick will rise through the ranks to the pinnacle of his career.

Kudos, Lord Archer, for this great start. As you mentioned in the author’s note, I can only hope you will survive the entire journey as you dazzle your countless fans.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Unquiet Dead (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #1), by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Nine stars

In this series debut by Ausma Zehanat Khan, the reader faces some of the most traumatic storytelling imaginable of a set of recent historical events, offset by a Canadian police procedural that does not wane at any point. Khan writes with a passion and develops a powerful piece that is as much about Canadian society as many other locations around the world. One part of the Toronto Police Service is the Community Relations branch, responsible for working with and solving crimes within the city’s numerous minority groups. Its elite team is Pakistani-born Esa Khattak and city local Rachel Getty. Khattak, well-versed in policing, has experience dealing with the minority community, which is enriched by being a practicing Muslim. He is able to educate Getty, while also allowing her to flourish on her own, as she has grown up in Toronto and see it change over the years. Word comes that Khattak and Getty are to attend the home of Christopher Drayton, who is said to have fallen off a cliff outside his home. An apparent suicide, neither Khattak nor Getty can surmise what brings them here, particularly since Drayton is no minority and the fall seems quite straightforward. Adding to the mystery, there are a number of letters in Drayton’s safe, which have been handed over by his somewhat flighty fiancée. Each piece of correspondence is quite abrasive and the writer seems keen to express violent tendencies, forcing Khattak and Getty to wonder if there is more to the life of Drayton than meets the eye. Further investigating leads to some troubling leads, as well as a handful of potential suspects, each with their own views on Drayton. While Khattak and Getty both face personal adversity throughout the novel, they come to realise that the victim may have a life known to few and a past full of deception. Getting to the heart of the matter, Khattak cannot help but challenge his superiors to better understand why this case was tossed in his lap. It is only then that the full impact of things is realized and the case spirals to new and nefarious levels, while echoing at the highest levels of the Canadian Government. A brilliant series debut, which allows me to see why it received the accolades it did. Highly recommended to the reader who can handle heart-wrenching topics enveloped in a police investigation, as well as those who love procedural novels with a Canadian flavouring.

It was a morning scan of Goodreads that brought Ausma Zehanat Khan to my attention and left me scrambling to get my hands on this series. This debut opens with an interesting spin and the focus of crime in Toronto left me wondering if it would be another ‘all praise Canada’s self-proclaimed best city’ or something I could recommend to others. Khan takes Canadian multiculturalism and mixes it with the subjugation of minorities in such a way that the reader cannot help but want to learn more. The two protagonists come from completely different backgrounds, but mesh together so well. Esa Khattak is a Muslim who has a great deal of police experience and had witnessed minority disenfranchisement first hand. His desire to set things right is only part of his impetus for being on the Community Relations team, though he is happy to educate his much younger partner about the ways of the world for those not so well-off. He struggles with his faith, his personal beliefs, and his need for facts throughout this novel, though is far from rigid in his views on all subjects. Rachel Getty’s life has been anything but easy, though it differs greatly from that of her partner. Getty has seen much in her young life, particularly with an abusive father who tried to pigeonhole her in a certain way and a brother who’s gone missing after finding solace in drugs. Getty seeks to learn from Khattak but also brings her own perspective to events, such that she can be teacher as well as pupil. She tries to come to her assigned tasks with an open mind in a city (and country) that remains fixated on the Anglo-Saxon way of living. There are a handful of other characters whose depiction adds layers to the story that I cannot put properly into words. I will hold back, so as not to spoil some of the narrative that weaves its way through the well-established chapters, but the reader should pay particular attention to those who do not seek the limelight and listen to the story they have to tell. The narrative was amazing and I was drawn to the story from the opening pages. Twists and turns throughout, as well as detailed descriptions of events that many could not even fathom fill the pages of this book. Some will run away and call ‘not for me, too violent’, though it is something that cannot be hidden and no reader should ostrich themselves. The uncomfortable is the only way that Khan can truly tell the tale of of the unquiet dead. Those who listen are better off for it, in my humble, Canadian opinion.

Kudos, Madam Khan, for such a riveting tale to open this series. I cannot wait to see what themes return and which new perspectives you have to offer in the second novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Landfall, by Thomas Mallon

Nine stars

The subject matter of Thomas Mallon’s most recent novel is both captivating and poignant, much like the others I have read over the years. Using a political era as a backdrop, Mallon injects his own fictional story to pull the entire time period together. During the 1978 congressional campaign of a young George Bush, teenagers Allison O’Connor and Ross Weatherall meet at the candidate’s “Bush Bash”, which ends up as an indelible mark on the family and helps to sink the young man’s campaign. Fast-forward to January 2005, it is now President Bush, who is about to deliver his second inaugural address. Full of hope for a newly democratized Iraq, Bush delivers a speech that he hopes will bring the country together and show that America remains a leader in democratic development. Bush’s coterie of senior officials include a Defence Secretary—Rumsfeld—who floods the air with memos and his twist on events. and a newly shuffled Secretary of State—Rice— with innovative ideas to ensure Iraq and much of the rest of America’s interests are not drowned out by protestors. Though, nothing can top the apathetic vice-president—Cheney—who seems to be there, but not. The Bush Administration is working on all they can, spinning and shaping how America and the world will judge them in the years to come. Allison O’Connor returns to the narrative with a place within the National Security Agency (NSA) on Rumsfeld’s recommendation and uses her military background to help shape the future of a democratic Iraq that is months away from a referendum on its new constitution and eventual parliamentary elections. Ross Weatherall reappears after being appointed to sit on the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, which has him quite busy, both in Washington and down in Louisiana. During a chance encounter, O’Connor and Weatherall remember that time they spent together and forge a new connection. During a trip to New Orleans, both come to terms with their relationship as weather off the coast is bringing Hurricane Katrina towards land. Separated and panicking, both O’Connor and Weatherall do all they can to survive, knowing that their roles in the Bush Administration will change drastically, as will the connection they share. With reaction to Katrina slower than might have been hoped, Bush and his closest advisors seek to distract with news about Iraq and how they can spread democracy around the world. Full of narratives that give the reader the feeling of actual events, Mallon paints an interesting picture of situations during this compacted time using a number of highly recognisable figures. Recommended to those who love recent historical fiction, as well as the reader who likes politics in all its machinations.

I have enjoyed a few novels by Thomas Mallon, all of which bring the story to life and resurrect some interesting historical happenings. He is able to breathe life into events like no other, offering a smooth connection with events and the fictional narrative he wishes to add. While Allison O’Connor and Ross Weatherall remain the recurring protagonists on the fictional side of the coin, there are many who play a central role throughout this piece, too many to list here. Mallon develops all his characters together effectively and tells stories not only with their words, but the actions and interactions they have with one another. In a story whose title led me to believe this would be about the Bush Administration foibles in New Orleans, the story is more about the democratic containment of Iraq and how America made landfall in this newly ‘released’ country and how setting about morals and political systems were seen by some as political liberation and others as neo-colonialism. Mallon does a brilliant job of blurring fact and fiction, taking liberties throughout by using characters and situations that suit his needs. The narrative flows so smoothly and the vignettes are wonderfully chosen to prove a larger point, while not entirely vilifying anyone. The underlying plot involving O’Connor and Weatherall is not lost on the reader, though it is a thread that is intertwined with so many others that it does not stick out. With a mix of chapter lengths, the reader will surely lose themselves and want to devour the book, even if they know the gist of the historical pathways being explored.

Kudos, Mr. Mallon, for another brilliant piece. I cannot wait to read more of your work, which always keeps me on the edge of my seat.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Ghost Fire (Courtney #17), by Wilbur Smith and Tom Harper

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Wilbur Smith, Tom Harper, and Bonnier Zaffre USA for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Having long been a fan of the Courtney series, I was pleased to see Wilbur Smith back with the seventeenth instalment. Working alongside Tom Harper, they trim back the family tree—or at least seek different branches—with another of the flashback novels that explores an earlier group of the popular family. Set in mid-18th century India, Theo and Connie Courtney have grown up as British subjects in the East India Company. When fighting breaks out, a proxy theatre of the Thirty Years War, Theo and Connie are left to fend for themselves after their parents perish. After Theo and Connie have a falling out, the former joins the fight to quell the local uprising, while Connie finds herself captured and detained. Theo’s friendships on the battlefield to keep Calcutta from falling lead him to make a promise to one of his comrades. When the dust settles and presuming that Connie is among the dead, Theo sails for the Thirteen Colonies, where he delivers news of a man’s death. With nowhere else to go, Theo connects with the locals and begins a new round of trials and tribulations. Meanwhile, Connie is well and saved from her Indian prison by a soldier who wishes to take her to France. However, her keen eye and attention to detail works well for Connie, who sets foot on French soil with a story of being a widow. She injects herself into French society as best she can, while Theo is across the world, also brushing shoulders with the French, though for completely different reasons. As Courtneys, they have gumption and while they may not admit it, there is a fire within them to survive, no matter what is put before them. In a tale of blood, fighting, and perseverance, Smith and Harper use this interesting flashback novel to bring their point home In this series that has seen much ebb and flow throughout its development, this one remains relatively strong. Fans of the series may enjoy this one, though it is sometimes hard to become enthralled with an era that differs greatly from the original series.

I have long enjoyed the work of Wilbur Smith, though this is the only series of his I have read (save, the intertwined Ballantynes). His attention to detail and wonderful characters are second to none and they fly off the page, enticing the reader to learn more about them, no matter the time period covered. In this piece, Smith and Harper develop both separate and intertwined narratives for the two protagonists. Theo Courtney is full of the energy of his ancestors and descendants, wanting to fight for what he feels is right. His split from his sister is partially pig-headedness and partially passion clouded in anger. As the narrative progresses, the reader can see how Theo uses all that is before him to make the most of the experience, though he is prone to finding trouble. By contrast, Connie seems happy to let life lead the way, though she is by no means a helpless damsel. Her independence is muted by the time, though she remains cunning and finds ways to get what she wants, through both her mind and with her own looks. Many of the other characters offer interesting perspectives throughout the novel, complementing the protagonists throughout. While this era is not one that I enjoy in this series, I must applaud Smith and Harper for keeping things interesting and on point. I struggled at times with the narrative, though was able to pick-up on the poignant parts that kept the narrative moving forward. Rich with history and told in numerous locales, the story rises above some of the other books in the series to keep the reader curious until the final pages.

Kudos, Messrs. Smith and Harper, for a decent addition to the series. It may be that the era is not of interest to me, but I can surely see a great deal of potential within the pages of this novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Hallows, by Victor Methos

Eight stars

New authors always arouse such intrigue for me, particularly when they write well in a genre I enjoy. Victor Methos is one such author and this legal thriller was not only captivating, but it flowed well and kept me attune to the story until the final page turn. Living the high life in Miami, Tatum Graham has it all, including a long list of clients seeking a criminal defence attorney who is ready to do whatever it takes to win. While Graham has that gumption, something seems to be eating away at him, so much so that he flees the area after a win and never looks back. His destination? The small Utah community he called home as a child, which has been collecting dust for close to two decades. When he pulls into town, much is the same, but there are some significant differences, including the woman he was dating before he left in the dead of night. With the town rocked by its first murder in a decade, Graham is convinced to lend a hand and serves as a consulting prosecutor for the fledgling county attorney’s office, who are left trying to build a murder case against two young men, one of whom is connected with more money than can be reflected on a balance sheet. Working with a few young attorneys, Graham does all he can to bring justice for the 17 year-old victim, whose personal life is anything but pristine. Still, all victims deserve a voice, even if the evidence against the suspects is flimsy. Working with less than ideal circumstances and under pressure, Graham must develop a case and have it heard in this small town, where all eyes are watching him, literally. Methos does a wonderful job to paint a captivating picture of the case at hand, as well as central characters who resonate with the reader. Recommended to those who like swift legal thrillers, as well as the reader who enjoys something that wastes little time during the reading experience.

It was a banner on Goodreads that led me to find this book, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed, Methos works well within the confines of the writing experience to bring a story to the reader that is unlikely to be soon forgotten. The Tatum Graham character has all the workings of a strong protagonist, where the glitz and glamour are humbled when he returns to his hometown. Graham has the aura around him to present a strong case and uses those skills for ‘good’, rather than to defend those who have the money to purchase certain perspectives. Throughout, Graham refers to a book he is writing about trial work, something that offers tidbits of insight into legal maneuvers within the courtroom. With a personal connection to the town, one can expect Graham to show his hand and emotional side, which is anything but superficial. With ghosts from his past returning on a daily basis, Graham must face it all, head-on. Other characters show great development, as they shape the story and complement Tatum Graham, particularly those who are still in town and react to his return. Methos uses these relationships to contrast the intensity of the legal story found within the novel and one can only hope that other novels work the same way. There is a great revelation about life as well as the legal side of the story through all these individuals coming together. The story was well-crafted and showed insight throughout, with some central legal arguments as well as loopholes used to develop strong narratives. Victor Methos knows his stuff and presents it well, using characters to deliver on a strong set of arguments that the reader cannot help but want to understand. With a small-town courtroom setting, the story turns on the smallest thing and the outcome is anything but a foregone conclusion. I am eager to see what else Methos has written and how this story fits into the larger picture.

Kudos, Mr. Methos, for a wonderful debut for me. I want to try more of your work and can only hope that there is a commonality in the quality of all your work!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Chestnut Man, by Søren Sveistrup

Nine stars

Scandinavian police procedurals are surely some of my favourite foreign books, as they bring the story to life and do not lose impact when translated into English. Søren Sveistrup does a masterful job at bringing this eerie story to life and leaving just enough out there for the reader to feel a definite chill up the spine. When the body of a woman is discovered outside her home, the Copenhagen Police send their Major Case Team out to investigate. Naia Thulin takes point and has been assigned to work with Mark Hess, a liaison officer who is biding his time before returning to Europol. When Thulin and Hess survey the scene, it is as grizzly as they could imagine, with the woman brutally murdered and her severed hand missing. Not only that, her young son was inside and came upon the body before the authorities were called. A small chestnut man—sold at many roadside kiosks around Denmark—is found at the scene, though it is hard to determine if there is any significance. As Thulin works with a less than enthralled partner, another body appears, this time with both hands removed. Hess seeks to shed some light on the investigation and notices a second chestnut man at the scene. Hess posits about whether the victims are mutilated for a particular reason, deducing that the killer may have more than just a sadistic need to bring about pain. After forensic testing, new evidence on an old case comes to light, one in which the daughter of the Minister of Social Affairs plays a central role. A year ago, young Kristine Hartung went missing and was never found. A man full of perverse tendencies admitted to kidnapping and dismembering her body before scattering the parts all over rural Denmark. However, both chestnut men from the recent crime scenes have Hartung’s fingerprints on them. Could it be that Kristine Hartung is still alive, perhaps being held captive by this sadistic killer? As the bodies pile up, Thulin and Hess are no closer to finding the killer, but may have a lead on how the victims are being chosen. While young children sing of a chestnut man in their primary classrooms, another Chestnut Man lurks out of view, ready to strike and commit horrible crimes for reasons not yet clear. Sveistrup does an amazing job in this drawn-out piece that will keep readers up late into the night to find answers and wonder what lurks in the dark. Highly recommended to those who love psychological thrillers and the reader with an enjoyment for well-crafted Scandinavian thrillers.

It is such a pleasure to discover new authors that sweep you off your feet from their debuts. I have come across a few these past months and cannot speak enough about the wonders of those who have the knack to write with such confidence. Sveistrup does so well in pacing out his thriller with wonderful characters and a plot that cannot be matched. Naia Thulin is an interesting member of Copenhagen’s Major Crime Team, though she is wrestling with many issues in her personal life. A single mother with a less than committed boyfriend, she uses her work to replace much of the loss she has seen. Thulin is dedicated to her job and has a passion for finding the clues that will bring a killer to justice, but cannot help showing her vulnerabilities when she least expects it. The reader can enjoy much of her personality, which evolves with the book, though her grit and determination makes it hard not to like her on some level. Other characters find themselves complementing Thulin, as well as making the most of their place within the larger narrative. The variety of characters boasts numerous sub-plots that the reader must follow to better understand the overall narrative and successfully determine where the killer can be found. With a powerful narrative that is not diluted in translation, Sveistrup pulls the reader in during the opening pages and will not let go throughout the entire piece. Mixing short chapters that tease with longer and move developed ones, Sveistrup takes no prisoners as he sets about to present one of the most chilling novels I have read in a long while. I can only hope there are more to come.

Kudos, Mr. Sveistrup, for making the transition from television to book writing. I can only hope others will find this book as stunning and create a buzz.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward

Six stars

When presented with this work by Jesmyn Ward, I was not sure what to expect. A reading challenge if ever there was one, which requires the reader to leave their preconceived notions and happy thoughts at the door. The story depicts a black family’s struggle in rural Mississippi over a period of time. There are three main stories here, the first, a living teenage boy—Jojo—who is trying to make sense of his life and how he will grow into a man. He lacks a true father figure, though is grandfather does the best he can. Jojo is mixed-race, forcing him to be scorned by all for his lack of fitting in. Add to that, his white father is incarcerated and his paternal grandfather will have nothing to do with him. Jojo’s mother, Leonie, is a drug-addled mother who is not present, but trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. She is still quite selfish, but must put on a brave face to ensure her children see the best of her. When Leonie packs her children up to take them to the prison, she hopes and prays that Jojo’s father is ready to face the reality of what awaits him. It is here that the reader learns of the third perspective of the story, a long-ago dead teenager’s ghost tells of Mississippi in the past, where people of colour had even fewer rights than today. Together, the story tells of a bleak outlook and one that can only get better with much change in a world that has forgotten the whispered voices. Sobering in its concept, but not what I expected or really felt connecting to me as a reader. Let those who love literature and its associated award-winning authors flock to this one. I’ll let them laud and praise it for the reader still on the fence.

It is always a gamble to read a new author and even more of one when presented with them in a reading challenge. I am always up for something new and interesting, though I cannot admit that I always follow the current of reviewer sentiments. In this piece, I was left feeling as though I wanted more Jesmyn Ward does well and has touched on a number of key issues with present and past America, showing that the country is far from the greatness its current leader espouses. However, the novel, presented through the eyes of three characters, failed to resonate with me. There is a thorough and multi-faceted view of life through the eyes of Jojo, offering his teenage struggles and how rural Mississippi is not an easy place to come of age, but this is interestingly contrasted with the life that Richie lived, another of the narrators, who faced lynchings and other horrible acts in a past full of trouble. Ward pushes a third perspective, Leonie, upon the reader, to show the middle ground of a woman who struggled as a child and found herself on the wrong path in a life full of poor choices and dead-end opportunities. The ideas were great and at times I enjoyed the delivery, but I could not connect with much of anything within the narrative. Surely, some will love it and praise Ward as being worthy of more accolades. For me, I am happy to hand over the shovel and ask that someone bury this experience so as to stop the caterwauling.

Kudos, Madam Ward, for your attempt. You did not win me over, but I hope others see the glimmer of magic I did not.

This book fulfils the August 2019 requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons