“The mind of man is capable of anything.” ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
“And all we feared inside the night
shows true in morning’s biased light.” ― Garth von Buchholz
I give Abby Greenwood kudos for trying. The idea is solid for her book, “Dark Hearts,”and could easily be transformed to any situation where people fight and kill one another simply because they are “different.” Well, and to turn a profit, of course. Native Americans slaughtered by the whites who came to this land. Religious difference, skin color differences, the list goes on and on.
The thing is, there were too many issues with the book to allow me to completely enjoy it. First, I was expecting a tense, suspenseful crime thriller. What is here is a mild police procedural with a romantic bent, based around a serial killer, race tensions in LA, and two officers who are doing their best to track down who is murdering people and stirring up said race tensions, and why. The “bad guys” were easily spotted, however, and their reasoning was fairly blatant early on in the book. The story arc was also damaged by lack of continuity – first one, then the other, and it was irritating that there was no editing for continuity. It shows up very early in the book and threw me off. There is also a ‘dropped’ story line that disappointed me.
Then we come to the ‘police procedural’ backbone of the book, and the lack of procedural and logistical knowledge of the author had me crossing my eyes. If you are going to write about a profession, whether it be police work, firefighting, or computer hacking, you have to research – something that was lacking here.
Overall, if you are just looking for an easy read, this is quick, and as I said the idea is good. I wish I could have enjoyed it more than I did. Great cover though.
“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people” ― Dante Alighieri, The Inferno
“He felt his heart, which no longer beat, contract, and he wondered if there was anything in the world as painful as not being able to protect the people you loved.”― Cassandra Clare, City of Fallen Angels
Agony. Such an interesting word, with such an interesting origin. “Late 14c., “mental suffering” (especially that of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane), from Old French agonie, agoine “anguish, terror, death agony” (14c.), and directly from Late Latin agonia, from Greek agonia “a (mental) struggle for victory,” originally “a struggle for victory in the games,” from agon “assembly for a contest,” from agein “to lead.” Now, it simply means, “Extreme and generally prolonged pain; intense physical or mental suffering.” Yes. Interesting.
Matthew Trevor Jones knows all about agony. His father walking out the door. His mother dying of cancer when he was twelve. His father refusing to accept, or even acknowledge his existence when he had no place else to go. A stint in Afghanistan. And now? Now, on this day, the day before his first day with Hollywood Homicide, he knows the agony of losing his friend, his brother in arms in the Sandbox. The man who pulled him away from all that was wrong with his life on his return from that dark and brutal place of guns and death. Away from his memories. The brother who got him started on the path to where he is today. Detective Kevin Hughes is dead, taken down in a blaze of bullets on his way to meet Matt, to celebrate his promotion. A bloody, blasted shell.
“At the end of the day it’ll come down to this: Kevin and I were brothers in arms. We fought the good fight and somehow both of us were lucky enough to come home. He had my back, and now I’ve got his.”
And as the case turns and twists, layers of deceit and lies, hidden meanings and horrific realizations come clear. Nothing is as it seems. Nothing is real, but at the same time too brutally real to be believed.
It all comes down to betrayal. The past and present are melding, and the threads of Matt’s life are starting to unravel.
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.” – W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming
This is the first time I have read Robert Ellis, but it won’t be the last. As much as I loved the book, there are certainly some who won’t. Ellis’s voice is harsh, nearly brutal in its ability to strip off the shiny layers, the bright and distracting gaudy bits, leaving the harsh truth behind, lying like the broken body of a child upon the sand.
“It hung there, all of it, in the candlelight and in the shadows, and on a night in late October when the dry wind howled.”
This is noir style detective thriller writing at its best and most complex. Beneath the shiny surface of Hollywood lies a dark and festering heart – and Ellis writes it like it is.
I received City of Echoes from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own. If you like my review, please do me the favour of letting me know by clicking “Like” on GoodReads, and on Amazon after it is published. I really appreciate it!
Publishing September 1, 2015 by Thomas & Mercer
About The Author
Robert Ellis is the international bestselling author of “Access to Power”, “The Dead Room”, and the critically acclaimed L.A. Times bestseller “City of Fire”, “The Lost Witness”, and “Murder Season” – selected as top reads by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, National Public Radio, The Chicago Tribune, The Toronto Sun, The Guardian (UK), The Evening Telegraph (UK), People Magazine, USA Today, and The New York Times. His novels have been translated into more than ten languages, are read in more than thirty-five countries, and are available in audio and all digital formats. Born in Philadelphia, Robert moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a writer, producer, and director in film, television, and advertising. Robert studied writing with Walter Tevis, author of “The Hustler”, “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, and “The Color of Money,” and with his friend, John Truby, screenwriter and author of “The Anatomy of Story.” His books have garnered praise from a diverse group of authors including Janet Evanovich’s wonderful review in People Magazine. But perhaps Michael Connelly said it best: “‘City of Fire’ is my kind of crime novel. Gritty, tight and assured. Riding with Detective Lena Gamble through the hills of Los Angeles is something I could get used to. She’s tough, smart, and most of all, she’s real.”
Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy. – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Try the devil, though I didn’t double cross him. I pledged allegiance. – Billy Wilkes, Kentucky Bestiary
“Hero” is such an odd word. Is a hero only that person who makes the grand and often fatal gesture? Or can a hero be a simple cop, tired, worn by the pain, the depression, the idiocy of humanity? And when do the horrors of life lead to the horrors of madness?
Corporal Pietro Silone was so very tired of Cincinnati. High crime, danger, drugs.
But the change he expected when he moves back to the ‘hollers’ of Eastern Kentucky – calm, peace, a speeding ticket now and again, is not what he finds. Instead, meth-heads and murder are the acts of the day, and reality takes a curve to the depths of despair and revulsion, of mystifying dreams and horrors of the mind and soul.
“Do you know where the cave led before it got blown?” Pete imagined it leading to the adyta where saurian-headed lizard men sacrificed virgins on an alter with bas relief carvings of some Sumerian forebear of Beelzebub sculpted into its stone, the monsters salivating for blood. It had been a long night.
Kentucky Bestiary is an oddity. Beginning as a quite well written police procedural, it blends and flows into a story of horror and myth, of Appalachian life. The horrors of monsters blend seamlessly with the horrors of the history of the mountains, the coal mines and the monstrous men who ran them, who worked children till their fingers bled, their lungs collapsed, their lives lived in the chthonic darkness of the miles and miles of tunnels, filled with not only darkness, but the terrors of cave-ins; of haints and hoodoos, and things that go bump in the night.
In the mines you had to keep your friends alive. In ‘Nam you had to keep your friends alive.
The threads of history flow through the book – Vietnam plays a role in the story of Pete’s uncle, the Veteran. But the history of the superstitions of the immigrants who populate the area is a stronger thread. Cryptozoology to snake handling, Pentecostals to Native American legend. The horrors of modern day meth heads, excruciating poverty and the hand-to-mouth lives of people with no hope living amongst rich tourists and a mysterious billionaire with a mysterious past, and an even more mysterious present.
The carrion’s gray coat stretched above them and gave off a faint animal musk, the beak of the preserved vulture’s head shadowing them like the canopy shrouding a massive dark Yggdrasil tree.
This is a very different sort of book. If you are looking for straight police procedural, you aren’t going to find it here. But if you are looking for something unusual, odd, and very deeply scary, a mind trip far from the usual, this is one to check out. Just don’t do it right before bed . . .
I received this book from the publisher in return for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.
I need to find a reason to go on with my life; to like what I do, to like who I am and to quietly pass the days until I can finally accept that I am doing the right thing; both for myself and – he supposed – my immortal soul. – DCI Michael Lambert – Abduction: Angel Over Rimini
I truly enjoy European and British novels, especially police procedurals. The turns of phrase, characterizations and procedures are just enough different from American stories that I normally find myself dropping into the story and losing myself. While that is the norm, there are certain books that I simply can’t make myself like, not because the story isn’t good, but because it simply isn’t well written. In this case, though Mr. Brigham may have been a journalist, he is in great need of an editor.
Though there are those who seem to admire his writing style, I find that Mr. Brigham’s over-descriptive, ad nauseum style had me wanting to pound my head against a wall. A good third of the book could have been tossed out and tightened down in order to make the book more readable. For example, I really didn’t need to know which rail lines Lambert took from St Lazar to Gare du Nord, then to Charles de Gaulle, and how he bought socks and ties at the airport. Why not just bring them from home, anyway? And knowing that he bought ten eggs, a jar of honey, a packet of spaghetti, etc. – ugh. Instead of giving us your marketing list, as the book does focus on food in places, I would much rather know what he cooked for himself and let it go at that. It would be much more interesting than a market list! The whole book is weighed down with these types of descriptions – filler material at best – which slows the story and allows the mind to wander until you suddenly realize that you have totally lost track of the narrative.
That is not to say that the book is totally boring or uninteresting. There are sections of the book, focusing on the countries Lambert visits, which are jewels of writing. And yes, there are some “foodie” scenes that are well done. For example, sitting outside a café in Alexandroupolis, Greece, eating baklava and drinking a little sweet Greek coffee reminds me of my own experiences with the same. Moreover, the descriptions of the countryside Lambert visits are often well done.
As for the actual cold case, that Lambert is working for Europol? The story itself is heartrending, pointing out just how “inhuman” humans can actually be. The treatment of migrants, lives lived in squalor, child trafficking, guns, murder and death – all come sharply into focus.
As for the secondary story, of Lambert’s father’s extramarital relationship during the war in Europe and the outcome so many years later when Lambert meets the Duchess of Malfi, well, it rather strains credulity – not in the history, but rather in the extreme level of coincidence inherent in the plotline.
Overall, this isn’t a bad book in-and-of itself, just not one that makes me want to go back and read the first two in the series.
I received this book from Rosie Amber! All comments are my own.
About the Author:
Patrick Brigham was the Editor in Chief of the first English Language news magazine in Bulgaria between 1995 and 2000. As a journalist he witnessed the changes in this once hard core Communist Country and personally knew most of the political players, including the old Dictator Todor Zhivkov and his successors Zhelev and Stoyanov. Traditionally a hotbed of intrigue and the natural home of the conspiracy theory, Bulgaria proved to be quite a challenge and for many the transition into democracy was painful. Despite this, he personally managed to survive these changes and now lives peacefully in Northern Greece. A writer and journalist for many years, he has written a number of short stories and articles which might be better described as light hearted, whilst confirming that the truth is often stranger than fiction.