Friday, 31 March 2017

2 Books You Must Read this Summer: The Redemption of Charm and The Last Laugh

Book Review: 'The Redemption of Charm' by Frank Westworth

'The Redemption of Charm' is a very good read with dark humor, good characters, nice suspense, a little shocking violence, and some smart payback... In other words another amazing installment in the Killing Sisters series!

I really liked seeing the cast from Westworth's previous books once again. In this final part of the trilogy, ex-black ops assassin and former soldier JJ Stoner is laying low in remote and wild USA, hiding from his enemies back home in Britain and generally keeping to himself. Isolated and out of action, we discover a more vulnerable side of Stoner, a man struggling to deal with the emotional tidal wave provoked by the brutalization of his woman and a series of betrayals. However, the nomadic hero eventually returns to his former, stone cold self and must confront Charm, the final Killing Sister, and find out who is friend and who is foe in order to survive.

Accustomed to the violence, humor and explicit sex scenes of the previous books in the series, 'The Redemption of Charm' was a change of scenery and a much welcomed new direction in plot. Though at first it took me a little while to find my bearings I was taken by pleasant surprise with the more slow-burning approach. It prepared me for the fast-paced action to come. The action and the unfolding of the plot seemed organic and melded well with the often savant element of Stoner's personality.

The series of JJ's encounters stateside and then back in England punctuated a captivating story, which I truly recommend to fans of Frank Westworth and to newcomers with an interest in the witty and gritty. It can be read as a standalone novel, but to really appreciate the denouement and the grand finale, make sure to also read parts one and two.

Westworth's writing grows on you and improves with each new book. Somewhat surprised when I originally came across his work, I learned to appreciate his style and how his sharp, timely-delivered dialogue is oftentimes more impactful than the action itself. It's subtle and intelligent. But at the same time - and this is me being perhaps too critical - Westworth may overdo it at times.

Stoner and the rest of the cast can be too smart for their own good. I'm amazed at how long the characters can keep up the witty retorts and never get tired. Long chunks of dialogue can be double-edged swords as there is always a danger that the reader can lose focus, no matter how punchy the lines are. And if I were to be even more finicky, I'd ask for a little less emphasis on blues and motorcycles (though we don't all share these passions, these are close to the writer's heart) and for an explanation on this strange obsession with coffee drinking and making breakfast throughout the novel.

'The Redemption of Charm' is vivid, hard-hitting, satisfactory story-telling. Keep it up, Frank!

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Book Review: 'The Last Laugh' by Paul Duke

Refugee camps. Fundamentalist terrorist organizations. Ruthless dictators. Violence. Bloodshed. Horrors of war. Oppressed populations. Clowns... Spot the odd one out. Not only does Paul Duke's debut novel manage to combine all these plot elements but it does so weaving in adventure, razor-sharp wit and some genuine funny moments. As a result 'The Last Laugh' is a gripping read.

Duke's dystopia offers a wonderful satire of radicalization and a fair portrayal of the NGO world and how the international community reacts to foreign threats. I enjoyed The Last Laugh's realism and its colourful cast of characters. I cared about main protagonist Franck Rousseau's commitment to the cause. I felt like I was part of his crew, travelling the dusty desert roads, entering hostile territories, generally fearing for my life... and appreciated their camaraderie, in-jokes and solidarity when the narrative was less tough. I was emotionally-connected, and at the end of the day, that is what matters when I read books.

The novel is dotted with the real-life experiences of the writer when he carried out humanitarian missions in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, or Pakistan. This not only propels the story forward but does so with ambition. Mixing humour with sensitive subjects like terrorism, war, or politics isn't an easy endeavor but Duke has pulled it off with panache.

'The Last Laugh' is a great achievement and puts Paul Duke on the literary map. This is a writer to look out for.

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