Anne Bonny #bookReview Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke #AmericanNoir #CrimeFiction #Thriller #Literary #NewRelease @SerpentsTail @atticalocke

Heaven, My Home by Attica Locke
Review Copy ~ Ebook ~ Netgalley
Synopsis ~

Nine-year-old Levi King knew he should have left for home sooner; instead he found himself all alone, adrift on the vastness of Caddo Lake. A sudden noise –
and all goes dark.

Ranger Darren Matthews is trying to emerge from another kind of darkness; his career and reputation lie in the hands of his mother, who’s never exactly had his best interests at heart. Now she holds the key to his freedom, and she’s not above a little blackmail to press her advantage.

An unlikely possibility of rescue arrives in the form of a case down Highway 59, in a small lakeside town. With Texas already suffering a new wave of racial violence in the wake of the election of Donald Trump, a black man is a suspect in the possible murder of a missing white boy: the son of an Aryan Brotherhood captain.

In deep country where the rule of law only goes so far, Darren has to battle centuries-old prejudices as he races to save not only Levi King, but himself.

My Review ~

I am a HUGE fan of Attica Locke (check out my review of Bluebird Bluebird and Q&A). I think she brings something so unique to the genre. Her novel are diverse, they are intelligent and she is certainly NOT afraid to tackle any form of prejudice (I salute you). I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second novel in the Highway 59 series. So here are my thoughts on Heaven, My Home…

The novel opens in Texas 2016 in Marion County. We are introduced to Levi King’s family. Mother Marnie, sister Dana, her boyf Rory Pitkin and his mother’s lover Gil. I took an instant dislike to this white trash family, but taking a moment to step back, it is not the children’s fault who raises them and therefore, I was intrigued to see how the story/family would develop. The novel will revolve around the disappearance of 9yur old Levi King. But who would take him and why?

The novel is ruthless is its tackling of the tensions caused by the 2016 election of he whom shall not be named. I applaud Attica Locke for saying what we are all thinking.
‘After Obama, it was forgiveness betrayed’

The King family dynamics hit further complexity as Levi’s father Bill ‘big kill’ King is an active member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT). He is currently 6yrs into a 20yr sentence for drug offences. In an unlikely twist of events, it is Bill that reaches out for help from Darren…

‘I’m begging you, sir. Find my boy’

The location and setting of the novel is fully explored. This really helps UK readers or NON-America readers such as myself. You get a feel for the town everyone and everywhere forgot….
‘It was a town that time had passed by’

There is also brutally honest descriptions of the family of the missing child…
‘Everything In Hopetown looked as mean and underfed as Marnie King’

The characterisation of the novel is outstanding and the author’s creation of ranger Darren Matthews is one she should be exceptionally proud of. He is just so perfect to carry a series. Almost like a diverse ranger version of Harry Bosch!
The family and namely Bill’s mother through in their two cents of theories into how the boy went missing. Almost no one apart from his incarcerated father seems to care where he is or if he is even alive. Darren does not give up that easily. Not even on a family who despise him…

‘Darren wasn’t sure Gil Thompson knew who Hitler was, let alone could explain the significant of the seminal text of Mein Kampf that was in his trailer’ 

This is a deeply layered exploration of racial hatred, the need for collaboration as citzens of the same county and politics when divides us all. 4.5*
I cannot wait to read what Attica Locke writes next!

Attica Locke
My review of Bluebird Bluebird and Q&A with the author

Anne Bonny #BookReview This Little Dark Place by A.S. Hatch @andrewshatch 4* #Thriller #Psychological #Mystery @SerpentsTail

This Little Dark Place by A.S. Hatch
Review Copy – Hardback
Synopsis ~

How well do you know your girlfriend?

How well do you know your lover?

How well do you know yourself?

Daniel and Victoria are together. They’re trying for a baby. Ruby is in prison, convicted of assault on an abusive partner.

But when Daniel joins a pen pal program for prisoners, he and Ruby make contact. At first the messages are polite, neutral – but soon they find themselves revealing more and more about themselves. Their deepest fears, their darkest desires.

And then, one day, Ruby comes to find Daniel. And now he must decide who to choose – and who to trust.

My Review ~

This novel has such a brilliant and appealing synopsis. We immediately know it will be a psychological thriller riddled with suspense and we are NOT let down.
The novel revolves around the characters of Daniel, Victoria and pen-pal Ruby. We are aware that Daniel is enrolled in a pen-pal programme, but the messages end up going so much deeper than a mere friendship…

‘Two damaged souls, reaching out for a connection’

It isn’t long before Daniel is divulging far too many details of his personal life and relationships. When Ruby reciprocates this response, we the reader immediately know it isn’t going to end well for either of them…

‘I didn’t intend to write back to her but of course I did’

Daniel is at times, an unreliable narrator and I never knew if he was telling the truth or playing games. You just simply can’t trust him and neither should Victoria or Ruby.
The novel is fast paced, edgy and modern. A cracking debut might I add. I raced through the pages and couldn’t wait to get to the end.

Daniel is most definitely a weirdo, but that doesn’t make him a criminal or does it? 4*

A.S. Hatch

*apologies for delayed review*

Anne Bonny #BookReview That Old Black Magic by Cathi Unsworth #NewRelease #HistoricalFiction #WW2 #Jazz #Occult @serpentstail

That Old Black Magic by Cathi Unsworth
April 1943: four boys playing in Hagley Woods, Worcestershire make a gruesome discovery. Inside an enormous elm tree, there is the body of a woman, her mouth stuffed with a length of cloth. As the case goes cold, mysterious graffiti starts going up across the Midlands: ‘Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?’

To Ross Spooner, a police officer working undercover for spiritualist magazine Two Worlds, the messages hold a sinister meaning. He’s been on the track of a German spy ring who have left a trail of black magic and mayhem across England, and this latest murder bears all the hallmarks of an ancient ritual.

At the same time, Spooner is investigating the case of Helen Duncan, a medium whose messages from the spirit world contain highly classified information. As the establishment joins ranks against Duncan, Spooner must face demons from his own past, uncover the spies hiding beneath the fabric of wartime society – and confront those who suspect that he, too, may not be all he seems …

My review:

I liked the sound of this novel so much, that before it had even arrived I had ordered another of the authors novels. The combination of the ww2 era, jazz and the occult, are clear winners for me! The second world war is my favourite era within historical fiction. I have a passion for jazz music and the occult adds the mystery!

The synopsis sounds amazing and at the point of the black magic themes. I was literally screaming ‘take my money’ to the Amazon page. I thought that the author may use the mystery and intrigue of the themes to provide a vague and mysterious novel. I was totally wrong! The novel has so much incredible detail. Some of the factual characters from history have been re-written. Simon De Vere for example, is heavily based on a real-life person. I clicked straight away the reference and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all, in fact it added to it. I found myself wracking my brains trying to spot other potential real-life characters. I think this is very cleverly done on the authors part and there is further explanation in the acknowledgements for the ww2 nerds like myself.

The novel opens in January 1941 at a séance with various practitioners of spiritualism. The performer Helen Duncan starts choking and claims to merely be enacting something that has happened to a spirit, claiming . . .

‘She’s lost out there, away in the woods, in the snow’

Immediately you the reader are propelled right into the thick of the action! The novel moves around the timeline and the various characters.
Adding more and more illusion and trickery. But is it?

Karl Kohl is a German soldier tasked with parachuting into Britain. Kohl dreams of being reunited with an anonymous woman. He is a self-confessed coward and his jump is doomed to fail. He finds himself in a farmer’s field, where he is quickly captured and transported to MI5 HQ. But will kohl talk? British intelligence are all ears. . .

Detective Sgt Ross Spooner grew up with parents that ran a rare and antique book shop in Aberdeen. He is quickly seconded by MI5 and ‘the chief’ to assist with the intelligence from Kohl. Kohl speaks of a German agent named Clara Bauer, known in England as Clara Brown and to the Nazi’s as Belladonna.
Spooner must locate her and bring her to MI5.

‘I think women are the key to this work. They’ve their own secret networks, away from the world of men’ Ross Spooner

What Spooner uncovers is a case that will challenge everything he believes in and leave him questioning his own sanity at times!

As said above, the novel has brilliant detail. The plot is intelligently plotted at all times. There is a wealth of fascinating characters such as Lady Mirabelle Wynter a former suffragette turned fascist! The settings of séance’s and the ghost club add an eerie, haunting feel to the novel. The creation of fear in an era when it is so readily available!
Illusion and trickery of ww2 with an occult element.

Cathi Unsworth

#BookReview Q&A #BluebirdBluebird by @atticalocke @serpentstail 5*

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

My review:

I picked this novel via netgalley, as I am a huge fan of novels with a diverse theme. I then saw a blurb from one of my favourite authors, Joe Ide giving praise for the novel and knew it must very special indeed. I knew the novel dealt with strong themes of racial inequality and the unbalanced justice system of the USA. However, at this point my knowledge of this, was limited to the infrequent news reports here in the UK and fiction/non-fiction reading. I have never visited the USA so have never witnessed the complexity of the issue, well that was all about to change! I picked up Bluebird Bluebird and only a few days later the Charlottesvile neo-Nazi’s formed their march, that left one woman dead and many injured. Suddenly this novel felt very poignant!

“For black folks, injustice came from both sides of the law, a double-edged sword of heartache and pain”

The novel surrounds the case of two dead bodies found in the bayou. One a black lawyer from Chicago and the other a local white woman. The racial tension of the setting of Larks, is evident on every page. This is a place that is divided by race and refuses to change. The novel details the crooked unbalance in the American justice system, one that will continue to define generation after generation. Black history meets white privilege head on, in this rollercoaster of a read. The novel is incredibly thought provoking, especially against a backdrop of current politics. I found myself questioning why the president of the USA, is so keen to condemn and discredit, the black lives matter movement. Whilst allowing white supremacist movements like the Aryan brotherhood to thrive!

The novel opens in 2016 Texas, USA. We are initially met with Geneva, a local café owner, the difference between justice for a black/white victim is explored. As the body of the black lawyer, has barely been investigated by the local police. But for the white local victim they are pulling out all the stops! In my eyes, a victim is a victim, end of!
But in rural America, it is not that way at all.

We meet protagonist and Texas ranger Darren Matthews, he has recently been suspended from work, his wife’s kicked him out and he is lonely and a little bit broken. He is called as a witness at an indictment case in San Jacinto county. The case involves Darren’s close friend Rutherford ‘Mack’ McMillan, who Darren has known for 20yrs. Mack is possibly being indicted for the crime of murder! The police believe he has shot and left for dead Ronnie ‘red rum’ Malvo. The case is one of extreme complexity, with Malvo being a member of the Aryan brotherhood Texas (ABT). Two days prior to the discovery of Malvo’s body, Darren was summoned to Mack’s property. Malvo was trespassing and harassing Mack’s granddaughter Breanna. When Darren arrives on the scene, Mack has his gun aimed at Malvo. Darren diffuses the situation and Malvo leaves.

Two days later Malvo is found dead in a ditch. A circumstantial case is built that Mack, holding vengeance for the incident, he tracked down and killed Malvo. Mack is facing death row! Prior to his suspension, Darren was working on a multi-agency task force. Their sole reason for assembly, is to dismantle the ABT and jail them for their various drug/gun operations they run. Darren knows that Malvo had turned snitch and any member of the ABT could have had him taken out. But he can’t declare this in court due to the level of secrecy on the task force.
The reader is led to believe Mack will just become another statistic, another black man wrongly convicted!

“How easily a coloured man’s general comportment could turn into a matter of life and death”

Darren leaves court frustrated with the system and angry that he can’t speak out! He meets up with agent Greg Heglund from the criminal investigation division (FBI). They discuss the task force and its intentions. We learn the task force only truly cares about taking down criminal activity of the ABT. They have no intention of dealing with the racial hatred. It’s at this moment we learn Darren has been greenlit and the ABT have targeted his property with faeces. Greg urges Darren to discreetly look into another case for him, whilst he is on suspension. A case in Lark, Shelby county.

Lark a small town with a population of just 178. Is no stranger to racial murders. But with the last case having been in 1998, what has driven somebody to murder in 2016. The 1998 case was when James ‘Jasper’ Byrd Jnr was dragged through the town, until his head came off. The murder was savage, but what has made this racist savagery return!

“He felt ashamed of his country and ashamed of his home state”

We get some more background on Darren and we learn of his desire to enter law school and of his own parentage. His father having died in Vietnam at just 19yrs old. His 16yr old mother couldn’t cope and he was raised by his uncles. His mother is now a crafty alcoholic, surviving on her wits. After visiting with his mother and pondering his own roots. He decides to take the case.

As he drives the US highway 59, the meaning of this is explained to the reader. With its links to the northern border and slavery. We also hear Darrens internal thoughts on the ABT. The ABT being born in a Texas prison, half their members incarcerated at any one time. The initiation process requiring a dead black body, removed of its skin. The Lark case involves victim one, Michael Wright, a Texas native now living in Chicago. He is a lawyer by profession and has a similar background to Darren. He is married but separated and no-one appears to know what he was even doing in Lark. Victim two is Missy Dale, a local waitress, enrolled in beauty school. She is married to Keith Avery Dale, who is fresh out of jail. Is he ABT?

Darren arrives in town and is quickly acquainted with local café owner Geneva, Michael’s wife Randie and sheriff Parker Van Horn. The Sheriff is quick to label Michaels murder as a drunken accident, despite the evidence to the contrary. It isn’t long until Darren is faced with local members of the ABT and the tension starts to build.

The case and the plot are extremely cleverly written. They keep you guessing until the very last page. The characterisation is insightful and intense. Why does the world look out for the likes of Missy Dale, whilst ignoring the victims like Michael Wright and Mack? Having been made aware so clearly of the unbalanced and unfair justice system. Why do the ABT feel they are the victims? Why are they so obsessed with hating on black citizens who have done them, no harm? And as stated above, why does the US president defend them? Although this is a work of fiction, the roots of its inspiration are clear.
White supremacy is a poison and it is killing America. 5*

“Criminality, once it touched black life, was a stain hard to remove”


Q) The novel displays the strong racial divides and small town mentality of Lark as a setting. As a British woman, born only in 1983, I find the fact that places like Lark really exist frightening. What was the inspiration behind the rural small town setting? Was there are real-life situation that created the idea of Bluebird Bluebird?

A) All of my family come from towns along Highway 59 in east Texas, so that was the inspiration for the location. I’ve always been fascinated by the culture of these small towns and the secrets I always imagined must be lurking the pine trees. There has, of course, over the years been racial violence in east Texas, but there was no one true incident for which I took inspiration for this book.

Q) The protagonist Texas ranger Darren Matthews, comes across extremely honest and decent. Whilst he is not without his faults, his dedication towards the case, I found admirable. How did you create his character?

A) Like all the characters, I kind of build them slowly in my head by filling out their world. Knowing that Darren was raised by his twin uncles was my first clue into who he is. The fact that they were so different and that he felt split between their two ideological ideas about role of the police in the protection of black life is the most significant thing about his character. And once I knew that his mother gave him up and once I “met” her—wrote the first scene with the two of them together—I felt I understood him even better.

Q) The novel also feature the Aryan Brotherhood Texas (ABT). The novel must have required some researching and exploring of how these networks operate. The emotion fully comes across on the page, as the plot unravels. Is it difficult emotionally, as the writer to imagine and write about these characters, such as the ABT?

A) No. It’s scary to know they exist, but writing about them wasn’t difficult. I will say that sometimes I would write something that felt too over the top—in terms of its racism—then I’d find a piece of research that suggested things are even worse than my imagination, in terms of what the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas has been accused of doing.

Q) Within Bluebird Bluebird there are many references to the civil rights movement. I have read numerous non-fiction novels on the US civil rights including The Blood Of Emmett Till. There is a wealth of fictional novels also being produced currently, with a similar theme. In my opinion America is producing some of the finest diverse fiction! Were you influenced by current politics in the theme of this novel?

A) Of course. All of my books are political and influenced by the world around me. I will say that I wrote this before Trump was elected, so it’s been discomfiting to see how timely this book is.

Q) As referenced in my review, I read Bluebird Bluebird, whilst watching the current news reports of marches in Charlottesville. Suddenly the entire novel became so very poignant and I realised this wasn’t a new political issue for the USA, it was an issue that had never gone away. I watched a news interview yesterday (21st Aug 2017) where US author, Colson Whitehead cited this is due to having a white supremacist in the white house. In your opinion what is it that is bringing the racists out of their closets?

A) Obama. I think a black president represented a level of cultural change that a good number of white Americans are uncomfortable with. Most polls now are revealing that anxiety about racial progress for people of color is the number one reason people voted for Trump. The people marching in Charlottesville and other places want a country that no longer exists. They want to go back to time when they are in charge of everything and singularly benefit from the country’s wealth and politics.

Attica Locke
Authors links:
Twitter: @atticalocke

*Huge thanks to the author for agreeing to take part in a Q&A on my blog!*