Today’s book review of a crime novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
The Stolen Ones by Richard Montanari
By night Luther walks Philadelphia’s backstreets, drawing to him the mad, the corrupt, the fallen. By day he roams the catacombs beneath the city, killing his prey.
Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are called to a bizarre murder scene: a man has been killed by a railroad spike driven into his head and left sitting on a bench in a local park. But it is just the beginning of a trail of evil that leads back to the hospital and the nightmares it still contains…
Review (of the audiobook)
The story starts with an intriguing (and short) prologue set centuries ago before chapter one brings us to modern day and a character called Luther – I can’t help thinking of the UK TV series of the same name and they do have a similarity; the novel’s character is a good bad guy whereas TV’s Luther is a bad good guy.
Richard’s Luther, a unpaged German, “first killed a man when he was twelve years old. He has never stopped.” Brilliant.
It’s not long before he finds his first victim, a thief who deserves what he gets.
We’re then introduced to the osteoporosis side of 35 homicide detective Jessica Balzano, who is also juggling work with a young family and legal studies, a long-held dream.
When we’re introduced to her partner, it’s clear they’re a comfortable team as they scour another victim’s home, and the rapport between the two detectives is amusing.
Considering the length of the novel, there aren’t many cliches. The ones I found included ‘razor-sharp blade’, ‘clear blue eyes’, ‘sharp as a tack’, ‘stone cold’, ‘three sheets to the wind’ and ‘as white as a sheet’.
The writing is generally very tight with some great phrases including ‘a world full of unnamed cousins’ (which will make sense when you read the book).
I’m a stickler for distinctive names and here we have three Js. Apart from Jessica, two major characters are James and Joan. As well as Luther, there’s also a Leo and a Lenny, both of which can be be Leonard in full (Lenny’s father is a Leonard too). There are a fair number of characters weaved through the novel but it’s not too difficult a job to keep track.
While seven books into a series it can be difficult to choose different names for characters, I’d still recommend having different first initials wherever possible.
Halfway through the novel, the detectives discover a young girl who doesn’t appear to speak. I guessed why at the time, perhaps obvious from the insight into the killer and police, but for me it took too long for the latter to make the connection.
The narrator for this audiobook was William Hope. I’d not come across him before but he’s superb, even with female characters.
It’s a fascinating insight into the human mind and a mental institution described in sometimes excruciating detail (not a good time for me to be eating my lunch).
We would all learn something from what we read, and as well as some German and medical procedures, there’s Estonian history.
When I first read the novel’s title, I wasn’t impressed – likewise Jodie Foster’s The Brave One – but like Jodie’s film, I really enjoyed it.
It’s the seventh in the Balzano and Byrne series (two Bs!), but works as a standalone, and I liked it enough to want to read the preceding books which says it all.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, 2015 Head Judge of the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition in 2013 and 2014, and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.