|Cover by Philip Harris|
Rattleback Books, 8 April 2021
Available as: e-book
Source: e-book kindly supplied by the author
|Cover by Philip Harris|
|Cover by Lisa Marie Pompilio|
I'm grateful to Orbit for a free advance copy of The Fall of Koli and to Tracy for inviting to take part in the blog tour.
The Fall of Koli is the final part of the Rampart Trilogy and - as Koli, narrating the start of the first book, told us it would - brings things full circle, with the return of an older and wiser man to Mythen Rood. We finally learn more about certain recurrent themes - the demon Stannabanna, and Dandrake who fought him; The Sword of Albion, which Koli, Ursula, Cup and Monono were searching for, and the Unfinished War (well named). It's also made clear how the story came to be narrated, by Koli (in all of the first book), by Koli and Spinner (in the second book) and here, by both, plus a third person - who turns out to have had a hand in certain earlier events which are now visible form a new perspective.
It's a satisfying and well rounded conclusion with a tense and dramatic ending, but I do advise you to read the previous two books first (and to stop reading my review now because it'll both confuse you and spoil the story!)
The Fall of Koli picks up exactly where The Trials of Koli ended, with the company desperately trying to get aboard the mega ship, The Sword of Albion, with their precious "diagnostic", rescued from the ruins of Ursula's drudge. They succeed, but this only brings them into a very strange world indeed. There are three people on the giant ship - Paul, Lorraine and their son, Stanley. There is something odd about Paul and Lorraine, Carey's portrayal deftly painting their strangeness which only morphs and becomes more complex as Koli (mainly) strips away layers of deceit. Who they are, what they were and what their purpose is prove to be deeply tangled matters and the more Koli understands, the more danger he and his friends prove to be in.
While this part of the story proceeds, Carey cuts away from time to time to follow Spinner, back in Mythen Rood. Spinner's story in The Trials of Koli was for me one of the best parts of that book, giving. whole new perspective on events in The Book of Koli and also presenting in Spinner a fascinating, clever and resourceful woman who is pushed into a difficult corner but determined to survive and to protect her family and village. That continues here, with Spinner becoming something very close to the leader of Mythen Rood. That requires joining in the deceptions the Ramparts pull on everybody else and Spinner recognises the moral ambiguity of that. She's determined to end the system, but has to play a complex game of politics to retain her position and address the growing threat of the Peacemaker, who lays claim to all and any "tech" in "Ingland". Basically, Spinner is forced to go to war, and it's a desperate conflict.
It's difficult for me to convey just how engaging, convincing and entertaining The Fall of Koli (and the trilogy of a whole) is. The reader has, of course, an advantage over Koli and his friends (except perhaps for Ursula) in recognising many places, events and things and even more so now that Koli has landed in something closer to our world. So there's that sense of recognising something and then seeing how Koli will cope, what it will mean to him and how he will make sense of it. But there are also many moments when Koli's world is baffling and it's his experience an intuition that guide us through it and help us make sense of things. That process is, as I've said, supplemented in this book by another, third point of view - in fact, by a fourth, kind of, as Koli finds a new and different resource to guide him but one that may put him in desperate peril.
Even in this third book, Carey is exploring new themes and elaborating existing ones. When the reasons for the Unfinished War become clear, you may want to think about them in relation to where we are in this country now. Ursula's repugnance for an independent Monono is explained at last, and the presence of humanity alongside that hostile Nature ("Everything that lives hates us...") is revisited but from the perspective of what balance we might be able to find with it. It's an ideas-rich book with the vastly different perspectives of the main characters - the trans girl Cup, educated doctor Ursula, virtual Monono who is in some ways the oldest of the group, and Koli himself - constantly sparking off one another and suggesting new and unexpected truths and conclusions.
That goes on to the - rather unexpected - end, with the final passage a musing on identity and reality from a character you might not expect. It's a neat pairing with the opening words of the trilogy, and satisfying place to conclude.
I would strongly recommend The Fall of Koli, and this trilogy as a whole. Reading the books has been a real treat one of my highlights of 2020 and 2021.
You can find out more about The Fall of Koli at the other stops on the blogtour (see the poster below) or from the publisher's website here. And you can buy it from your local bookshop, or online from Bookshop, Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyles, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon.
|Cover by Dominic Forbes|
|Cover by Julia Lloyd|
I'm honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for Hotel Cartagena, and grateful to Orenda Books and to Anne at Random Things Tours for providing a copy of the book and inviting me to take part.
Well, this one is certainly something different!
I've been following the Chastity Riley stories from the beginning and thought I knew what to expect, but in this fourth episode Buchholz shakes things up somewhat. In fact she throws all the rules out of the window - the window being that of a 20th storey hotel bar above the Hamburg docks. That's where Riley has come with her collection of damaged friends and colleagues to celebrate Faller's birthday. Yes, it's an office party (of sorts) for Hamburg's CID and their hangers on, and as you will expect if you think about that for a moment, it turns out not to be an ordinary party AT ALL.
The gang's all here - introduced one by one: Faller, Brückner, Calabretta, Klatsche, Carla, Rocco, Stanislawski, Riley herself of course - with their placing carefully spelled out. Even before anything else happens, Riley notes the tensions and suggests that 'we have a situation'.
And then, hostage takers storm the bar...
This is therefore in many respects a very different book from the previous ones in the series, which all follow the patten of a criminal investigation - but also, very similar, in that the same people are present (except for one), the atmosphere - a kind of exhausted noir - is the same, and the ultimate motivation for what happens is rooted in the same criminal underworld.
We get the familiar punchy, irony-laden chapters narrating both events in the bar (from Riley's point of view - 'I'm just the rather confusing type of woman') and, going back several decades, the life of a man - Henning, later Henk - who is intimately related to what happens. His is a compelling life history, even though told in miniature (this is a short book and Henning is only part of it). Buchholz gives us, in a relatively small space, a deep feeling for this man who, on a whim, hopped on a ship and worked his passage to South America (you can still do that?), found a home, fell in love... and suffered unimaginably.
It's also a heist, because what happened to Henk underlies a complex, carefully planned operation in the attack on the hotel bar. We see this unfold, and some of the planning and preparation, at the same time as the police response and the dramatic endgame. One of the crew is missing from the bar: Stepanovic got distracted by a pretty face on his way to the party, so ends up shivering in a tent in the street, playing at being a hostage negotiator (it gives him an in, at least). Personal life and police work come into conflict as the various men with whom Riley is, or has been, involved (again, 'I'm just the rather confusing type of woman') endure the waiting, trying to work some angle with kidnappers or authorities).
And all the time, the clock is ticking.
We've seen all these characters before, generally in Carla and Rocco's bar. They are free spirits who have come and gone through the pages of Buchholz's stories. Now she has, rather cruelly, constrained them. It's almost a laboratory experiment, a test of how all the distinct personalities we've come to know and, yes I'll say it, love, will change under extreme conditions.
But Hotel Cartagena is much more than that. As I've said, Henning/ Henk's story is compelling and his development as a person is riveting and all to credible. The previous books sketched the Hamburg underworld for us as a pretty dark, dangerous place but Hotel Cartagena makes it seem like a kindergarten, compared with the more elementary, more ruthless world that Henk stumbles into.
As ever, Rachel Ward's translation here is sharp, lucid and colloquial. Some chapters verge on poetry, rendered in terse, rapt lines. In other places we get dreadful puns ('The Wurst is yet to Come' - literally true for one character). Always, the deadpan tone of Riley's internal monologue, the dry wonder at how bad things can get, is maintained, the effect building through the book until a final, unexpected climax that knocked me right off balance.
There's a change of pace, a rising of the stakes, in Hotel Cartagena, compared with its predecessors which makes it - and I would have thought this next to impossible - even better than they were, even tenser, even darker. At the same time I think there is also a sense that under the pressure, some block in Riley, something which has trapped her in her familiar sardonic circles, has shifted and she may be on the move. To what effect, we'll have to wait and see in future books - which I'm now very impatient for!
If you haven't been reading this series (in which case I envy you about to discover it all for the first time!) Hotel Cartagena would be a good place to begin, giving a taste of the mood and tone - and the characters - without being spoilery about earlier events.
For more information about Hotel Cartagena, see the Orenda Books website here - and the marvellous blog tour entries on the poster below.
You can buy Hotel Cartagena online from UK Bookshop dot org, from Hive Books, Blackwell's, Foyles, WH Smith, Waterstones or Amazon. And also of course from your local bookshop if they are doing click-and-collect, as many are. (For my local shop it's more of a "David-sends-email-and-collect" and if I'm lucky they have the book in anyway so actually much quicker...)
The Dirty South is one of those books published in 20202 that I ought to have got to last year but didn't (it was 2020, after all...) It's out in PB on 1 April - and definitely one to look forward to.
As somebody who only started reading the Charlie Parker series three or four books back, and so isn't up on all the continuity, it was good to be able to read this relatively standalone prequel, set before Every Dead Thing. Parker is already on the hunt for the killer of his wife and daughter, a quest which takes him to the town of Cargill in Arkansas, where young Black women are being murdered in a particularly grisly, staged way.
Cargill is a poor, dead-end town effectively ruled by the Cade family. The Cades have plans for the place - they want to lure a Government contractor to build a research centre, attracting good jobs and lucrative contracts. Nothing must be allowed to impede this, especially not bad publicity about the deaths of a few Black girls. Jarel Cade, the country sheriff, will make sure of it...
Bringing Parker head too head with a world of corruption and wrongness is not new for Connolly. However The Dirty South stands out in a number of ways.
First, this isn't - quite - Parker as we know him. At first he's focussed on nothing more then revenge, so when he concludes that these killings aren't related to his family tragedy, he shakes the dust off his feet and drives away. But not for long. Through this book one can see Parker watching, processing, judging, examining the grief and guilt of those around him and - in the end - deciding to help.
Also, this isn't a book overtly about supernatural evil (though there are some hints about the Karagol, that dark lake from which the town is named). But it remains a book about evil. Connolly is as adept as ever at conveying evil and corruption - which certainly are to be found here - and accordingly The Dirty South seems at times to weep taint, it's as though Parker is prodding and squeezing a decaying corpse, watching the humours leech out. There is almost a physicality to the evil that is exposed - the corruption reaching out tendrils to local politics, including the State capital and politicians, as well as to souls.
All that is wrapped though round a fiendishly difficult police procedural (for certain values of procedure - the Cargill Police Department and its Chief, Evander Griffin, are short of resources and support so a lot of what they do is rather... improvised). The investigation takes in cold cases, past corruption and incompetence and a firm desire to look the other way. It all makes for a tense, engaging read with an explosive conclusion.
Of course there are familiar features here: I don't think Connolly is capable of writing dialogue that isn't smart and on the nose, or of deploying villains who don't give off that feeling I mentioned before, that sense of moral taint, of dirt, and this book shows that off brilliantly. We meet a variety of compromised figures, from bent police to corporate fixers to those who dance to their own dark and secret desires. All are too, too credible.
I would strongly recommend, whether you're a long term reader of this series or whether you'd like a place to get into it. (And - we get an explanation of Parker's name. No, he's not named after the jazz musician).
For more information about The Dirty South see the publisher's website here.