517UlM8qrSL__SX325_BO1,204,203,200_It’s a pleasure to be taking part in this blog tour marking the release of J. M. Gulvin’s The Long Count, the first of a series featuring Texas Ranger, John Quarrie…

Ranger John Quarrie is called to the scene of an apparent suicide by a fellow war veteran. Although the local police want the case shut down, John Q is convinced that events aren’t quite so straightforward. When his hunch is backed up by the man’s son, Isaac – just back from Vietnam, and convinced his father was murdered – they start to look into a series of other violent incidents in the area, including a recent fire at the local Trinity Asylum and the disappearance of Isaac’s twin brother, Ishmael. In a desperate race against time, John Q has to try and unravel the dark secrets at the heart of this family and get to the truth before the count is up…

With comparisons to Shutter Island and True Detective, my expectations were high for this first outing featuring Texas Ranger John Q. From the very outset of the book Gulvin completely immerses the reader in this particular era of the 1970’s with the reverberations of the Vietnam War playing through the book, and an atmospheric depiction of the sprawling location of Texas. The opening chapter with a real sit up and take notice incident is an absolute corker, that instantly grabs the reader’s attention, and sets the pulse a racing for what is to follow. I loved the sharp cutaway and the instant change of pace in the second chapter, this being the first introduction into the personal world of our erstwhile hero Quarrie. This is a change of rhythm and pace that Gulvin fluctuates between throughout the book, thus ensuring that the more violent aspects of the plot work perfectly in tandem with the more emotional and heart-wrenching interludes, keeping the reader slightly on the back foot, and playing with our responses to the narrative as a whole.

By extension these changes of pace seem to echo in Gulvin’s characterisation throughout the book, and seldom do I encounter a book where every single protagonist- irrespective of how long they appear in the book, or the size of the part they play- are so clearly fleshed out. Quarrie is a man with two personas, as a single father with a young son, James, never happier than in the lively company of James or his Korean War buddy Pious, just shooting the breeze or in his professional status as a dedicated and dogged Texas Ranger. The background story to the loss of his wife never resorts to mawkishness, and in a side plot with James and Pious investigating the history of a train crash in a local river, the real excitement in James’ enthusiasm for his own mystery to investigate comes shining through. This side narrative provides moments of light as Quarrie’s own case finds him drawn into a world of psychological darkness, evinced by the unsettling goings-on at a mental asylum, with a vendetta being waged against those who work there, and the dark personal history of a family with connections to it. The character of Isaac, whose father’s suspicious death is a real lynchpin of the book, is also incredibly well drawn, and as the story develops there are further revelations about himself and the bounds of loyalty his family, in particular his twin brother Ishamel, that hold more than a few surprises…

Gulvin builds the tension of Quarrie’s investigation perfectly, and trying hard to avoid spoilers, there is a real emotional intensity and pathos to this story as Quarrie is drawn into the world of the asylum and those that dwell within it. Obviously being set around forty years in the past, Gulvin engages the reader’s interest further by highlighting what now seem archaic and cruel treatment methods for those with mental disturbance, and drawing on both the Korean and Vietnam conflicts to add weight to the psychological depth of the book. Nothing makes my heart sing more than a book that rises above the commonplace labels of generic crime fiction, and an author that so perfectly insinuates deeper themes, and a well-realised sense of place and history into their work. J M Gulvin has achieved this admirably. Highly recommended.

Born in the UK, JM Gulvin divides his time between Wales and the western United States. He is the author of many previous novels, as well as Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s bestselling travel book Long Way Down. The Long Count is his first John Q mystery and he is currently at work on the follow up. Follow on Twitter @jmgulvin

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)

Catch up with, or follow the rest of the tour at these excellent sites…

long count use this one

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