Posts Tagged ‘Exhibit A’

Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square struck me as an enigma of sorts. The whole pre-“Sherlock Holmes” detective gambit and Victorian era had me running around in pandemic circles; I absolutely had to read this story. Here is the snippet on the back:

“London, 1859. Novice detective, Campbell Lawless, stumbles onto the trail of Berwick Skelton, an elusive revolutionary, threatening to bring the city to its knees with devilish acts of terror.

Thrust into a lethal, intoxicating world of sabotage and royal scandal – and aided by a gang of street urchins and a vivacious librarian – Lawless sets out to capture his underworld nemesis before he unleashes his final vengeance.”

So, sounds smashingly brilliant, am I right? Now that I’ve read it and enjoyed it, I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t love it as much as I was expecting to. The book starts out on fire with intrigue, water pipe eruptions, brilliant displays of setting and the tongue of the common-folk which at times was a bit tricky for me to follow. I felt like I stepped into a whole different world straight from the past and it transitioned so smoothly as if William Sutton was a simple newspaper writer, sitting on a bench detailing the daily events of the time. On a side note, Lawless and The Devil of Euston square is stock full of possible suspects and conspirators.

I tried paying close attention to each detail, trying to be a world renowned sleuth of my own means, locking on to each tiny detail in an attempt to garner a broader glimpse of the wheels in motion behind scenes. But, after a while… it began to drag.

The drag really hurt the book and sad to say, I started feeling little care anymore about whether the crime / intended crimes were solved or not by Lawless. What should have been a truly fantastic ending, seemed ill-placed when expecting it forty-or so pages earlier. To top it all off, our main hero, Lawless, in the end throws out some feelings on the conclusion of his case, that leave you even more flabbergasted as to why you should have even cared either if he doesn’t fully believe in his actions.

Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square was a solid and substantial read.  However, it might have been excellent if it had tightened up near the end a tad more. I think in a year or so, I might actually take second look into this one and reread it, gauging my review against a second glance. Lawless and The Devil of Euston Square has its highs and lows and I fully appreciate the skill of storytelling William Sutton possesses. This might be one of those rare novels in which I recommend simply reading it yourself to form a more personal opinion.

Setting: Chicago, the windy city.

Antagonist: Ismael Fisher, a sniper of unimaginable skill gone rogue.

Conflict: Some dirty political secrets that stem to the very tip of our government are on the brink of being exposed.

Hero: John Lynch, a detective way in over his head; let’s hope he can tread water fast enough.

Take out your blender, toss in a dash of perfect setting,  a pinch of deadly antagonist, a smattering  of conflict worth killing for, and top it all off with a smooth talking detective. I’ll take my Penance “…shaken, not stirred.”

The first thing to take note of in Penance is the character cast at the very beginning of the book. While it may seem a tad intimidating at the onset, by the end of the novel, I guarantee that you will appreciate the nifty bit of magic Dan O’Shea has crafted here. The lineage connections from one family generation to the next smacks you in the face with a shocking truth: Money, position, and power tend to stay within families and those families in Penance will do anything to remain in control of that power, much like those in real life.

I Love The Setting. My 83-year-old insane grandfather has been living in the same house in Chicago all his life and my mother grew up there; this book reminds me of him so much. He would always talk about the mayors, segregation, different racial neighborhoods, and cheaper gas in Indiana. This book’s setting has it all and more, it’s spot on.

There are so many fantastic things about Penance: The ease of which O’Shea incorporates his expertise / knowledge of weaponry is flawless. I don’t know if it is all completely accurate or not, but for me it worked seamlessly. I can only imagine the amount of time any other author would have spent researching some of this stuff to even try and compete with O’Shea.  Ishmael Fisher’s underlying motive for killing his seemingly innocent victims is so damn perfect… (Will not give out spoilers.)

With most novels you can get close to guessing the outcome. Penance had my head scheming up a whirlwind of different conclusions and even in the final few pages I felt the novel could turn down so many different alleyways with a single gunshot.

Pour out yourself a strong glass of Penance, add a couple more fingers worth, and shoot it straight. You might get a fierce burn in the back of your throat and by the time you’ve finally run out, you will be thanking O’Shea for crafting such a rare piece of fine art. Penance is my second novel from Exhibit A; Wounded Prey was the first, and I have Lawless & The Devil of Euston Square up next. Exhibit A has stepped up to the plate with some killer books. Watch your back.

Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch is an upcoming book from Exhibit A, a crime-publishing imprint of Angry Robot, and I can already tell you it is going to draw a lot of comparisons to other great crime stories.  It’s already been noted as a mix between No Country for Old Men and Silence of the Lambs. I’ve debated over and over again about throwing out my own comparisons of the villain, Vernon Slocum, to that of so many other diabolical characters and I just can’t do it. Why? Because those characters are fictional and somewhere there once existed a man known as Vernon Slocum, there can be no other sufficient explanation for how mind-blowing the portrayal for this character was. For me, Vernon Slocum was a showstopper, evil and blood-crazed as this former insane marine was, I couldn’t help but become sickly fascinated when quivering behind closed doors and trying not to urinate myself as his parts neared.

For my first read from Exhibit A, Wounded Prey met and exceeded all my expectations. Sean Lynch dishes out what I like to consider a “complete novel” filled with:  stellar characters, an engaging plot, captivating and also humorous writing at times, and most importantly, realism. I’ve already made a few notes during the read about how I loved the brutally realistic fighting. When a huge man with military combat training throws some hefty punches around it doesn’t take long for him to dish out serious damage.  I tend to get sick of imitation style wrestling fight depictions of these superhuman hulks absorbing so much damage there is no way they should still be standing, let alone still alive and conscious. Every action by these former soldiers has been programmed and drilled by instinct to be quick and deadly efficient, and Lynch gives us just that. Vernon Slocum doesn’t pull many punches, when he wants somebody dead, he will kill them anyway he can.

Realizing I haven’t told you anything about the actual story inside Wounded Prey, here it is:   “It’s time to finish what he started…”

A young girl is snatched in broad daylight from outside her school and later found brutally murdered and hanging from a tree.

When recently retired San Francisco Police Inspector, Bob Farrell, sees this on the news, he realizes his worst nightmare has just come true. The same brutal killer a government agency stopped him from putting away twenty years before is once more on the loose.

As the killer wreaks a trail of blood and destruction across North America, Bob Farrell teams up with rookie cop Kevin Kearns and sets out to track down their lethal prey.

But Farrell & Kearns are not playing by the rules any more than the killer is, and soon the FBI have all of them in their sights…

If this sounds to you like a harsh, disturbing, exciting, brilliant, amazing, violent, sick, and drug-infused wreck coming to a head-on collision with a lot of unique investigation techniques (You might want to think twice about giving Farrell your business card), enjoyable characters, and killing – then you assumed correctly.

The road Deputy Kevin Kearns and former inspector Bob Farrell take is one of the vigilante and they are damn good at it. By the time the novel ends I’m not sure whose bad side I would rather be on; that of the Farrell and Kearns duo or the unstoppable Slocum.

Reading Wounded Prey for me was like living in the shadows of Vernon Slocum and  crawling my way through the jungles of Vietnam, praying I would make it out alive, watching as the big man slaughtered innocents and combatants alike. In case you can’t tell, I’m still in awe at what a presence Lynch has given Slocum and I can’t imagine any another character trying to enact Slocum’s perverse role. I’m sure there  will be more Farrell and Kearns quests which I will be thrilled to read, but those who try and step up to fill Slocum’s shoes have a mighty big challenge ahead of them. 9 out of 10 Liams for Wounded Prey by Sean Lynch, I almost wish the hunt had never ended.