Blog Tour- Michael Grothaus- Epiphany Jones- Review

92ec49_6e4d53e237f2437cb87cd049f0b4cfaaJerry has a traumatic past that leaves him subject to psychotic hallucinations and depressive episodes. When he stands accused of stealing a priceless Van Gogh painting, he goes underground, where he develops an unwilling relationship with a woman who believes that the voices she hears are from God. Involuntarily entangled in the illicit world of sex-trafficking amongst the Hollywood elite, and on a mission to find redemption for a haunting series of events from the past, Jerry is thrust into a genuinely shocking and outrageously funny quest to uncover the truth and atone for historical sins…

Entering the surreal and dark world  of Epiphany Jones is very much akin to being thrown out of an aeroplane and spiralling into a freefall with the initial euphoric feeling that, yes there is a rip cord,  but then being stricken by the fear that this rip cord may well malfunction. From the outset you will be repulsed, gripped, endlessly unsettled, and yet strangely moved, as you become more deeply enmeshed in the scatological and disturbing world of a certain Mr Jerry Dresden…

I will confess that on embarking reading this book there was an overwhelming sense of just what the hell is going on here, and who the hell is this crass, sexually gauche and downright weird individual that I am meant to be engaging with? But, I promise you wholeheartedly, that as much as your teeth are set on edge by the sheer social awkwardness and sexual ineptitude of Dresden, it is a testament to the bravery and cleverness of Grothaus’ writing that every preconception you initially hold will be fundamentally challenged as the story progresses. It’s a risky strategy, but what is life without a little bit of risk taking, and producing writing that genuinely challenges and stretches your reader? Such is the case with Grothaus’ unique approach in the characterisation of both Dresden, and the manipulative and deeply emotionally scarred Epiphany Jones, who crashes in to Dresden’s small world with the power of a heat seeking missile. Grappling with his own psychotic delusions, Dresden is inveigled in a world of blackmail, violence and exploitation that proves as much as an epiphany to his own sense of self, as the fractured and dangerous world of Epiphany threatens to destroy them both. At one point Dresden comments that he feels ‘like a figment, of a figment, of a figment’ as the unreliability of formative memories and the blurring of truth and lies, the real and the unreal are consistently explored both in his character and that of Epihany herself.  As the powerfully emotive details of Epiphany’s manipulation and abuse, within the world of sex trafficking come to the fore, there is a reshaping and shifting of Dresden’s character that is joyous to behold. When these two characters are not directly interacting with each other there is a palpable lull in the tension of the book, that Grothaus ramps up when their paths cross again setting up a compelling ebb and flow to the rhythm of their relationship, and giving a real vitality to the characterisation throughout, superbly manipulating and toying with the readers’ emotional responses to both.

I think it’s worth reiterating here that if you want to get a real  handle on the dark social and political recesses of any society, that crime fiction is the most reliable narrative form to accomplish this, and this book demonstrates this beautifully. Not only does this book present us with a stark, and painfully truthful, depiction of the nefarious world of sex trafficking, made all the more powerful by the reportage style of Epiphany’s testament, but also challenges and plays with the reader’s sensibilities, and view of the world consistently. So along the way you will also encounter God, cybersex, the overblown world of celebrity, social alienation, and psychotic disturbance, in a sharp, acerbic style and at times underscored with a humour of the blackest black, and top notch satirical observation, which was hugely appreciated by this reader.

Epiphany Jones is a real seat of the pants read, and utterly uncompromising. It’s graphic, visceral, mordantly funny, thought provoking and at times profoundly moving. It’s not for all, but it was certainly all for this one. I absolutely loved it, and big kudos from the Raven for Mr  Grothaus for such clever, risk-taking and challenging fiction writing. Highly recommended.

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Catch up with or continue to follow the blog tour at these excellent sites

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May 2016 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Words cannot express how much I have enjoyed the month of May with a whole two weeks off work, a brilliant trip to the CrimeFest crime writing convention and some jolly good reading too! Had an absolute blast at CrimeFest (superbly organised by Myles, Donna and Adrian *round of applause*) where I attended 18 panels, saw Ian Rankin brilliantly interviewed by Jake Kerridge, and discovered a whole host of new and exciting crime authors through the Fresh Blood sessions. Thanks to all the authors for their wit, intelligence and truly entertaining panels, and for their general good-natured bonhomie in the face of their adoring fans. Lovely to see my favourites again! I would also like to give a special mention to all the authors and publicists who bombarded me with praise for my reviews. I would say that you guys do all the hard work- I am a mere conduit- but thank you, I appreciate it very much. I met a whole host of wonderful people including the blogging posse, Liz, Christine, Victoria, Lisa,  Shaz and Tracey,  where it was lovely to put faces to Twitter handles- you are excellent people- and fab to catch up with some familiar faces from the blogging community too- interesting discussions guys!  As usual there were also late night shenanigans, near the knuckle tales and drunken high jinx- but alas my beak is sealed. Sorry… Can’t wait for next year…

May has been an excellent month in terms of volume of books read, but have let it slide it bit with actually writing reviews. Consequently, there is a small pile of books nestling by the laptop, waiting for their moment in the sun. Their time will come. June will hopefully then be a bumper round-up and with another two blog tours on the horizon, there’s lots of criminal goodies to bring you next month. Have a good one!

Books read and reviewed:

Abir Mukherjee- A Rising Man

J M Gulvin- The Long Count

Steve Cavanagh- The Plea

William Shaw- The Birdwatcher

Tetsuya Honda- The Silent Dead

 

Raven’s Book of The Month:

This month I could easily say all of them! It’s a rare occurrence to love every single book you’ve read, but you wouldn’t go far wrong picking any of these at random, depending on your mood or preferred location. Add them all to your summer reading list. But, having to adhere to my self-imposed convention, I’m choosing the one that really struck an emotional chord with me, with its sublime mix of location, shifting timeline, an appreciation of the natural world, and faultless characterisation. Step forward…

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Blog Tour- J M Gulvin- #TheLongCount: A John Q Mystery

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…

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