Flank Street by A. J. Sendall

Published: 15th May 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Ascend Digital Publications
Pages: 310
Format: Ebook
Genre: Crime Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Flank Street is set in Australia, mainly in Sydney’s Kings Cross. It’s written in first person from the distorted reality of Micky DeWitt, a shiftless career criminal and world sailor.

Micky arrives in Sydney by boat, broke and on the lookout for opportunity. After taking a job as barman in a Kings Cross pub, he’s eventually approached by a high-end escort who needs something stolen.

Nothing is what it seems, as Micky falls into a honey trap that spins his life out of control.
Some characters from Heather make an appearance, including Mitchell, and the enigmatic Ray Peterson.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

This is the second book in the Sydney Underworld series and takes place before the events set in Heather but remains connected to the life at Kings Cross and includes many familiar faces. It was interesting to read about what the Cross was like before Loretto Reed took over and where certain characters started out, and knowing how the story pans out it was great to see little clues and references scattered throughout. Reading this also made me realise I had made assumptions in Heather which I hadn’t noticed, and having read Heather it made this a better read as well because there was a deeper understanding of even minor characters.

Told from a first-person perspective Flank Street focuses on Micky, a guy with a mysterious past who turns up to Sydney on his boat with the intention of getting involved with the underbelly of Sydney life. I liked Micky’s no-nonsense approach, he knew what he wanted and he went out and got it. His history is not really known and while he makes passing references to where he has been, there is still not a lot known about him. While I would love to know more about Micky’s history it isn’t important to the story and it also made him fit in well with his new life, someone with secrets, a vague past, with a certain set of skills.

It’s hard not to see similarities between Heather and Sam from the first book and Micky and Carol in this one, but at the same time they are also totally separate as well. While Sam enters the Kings Cross life after being convinced by another and with a mission to achieve, Micky chooses it because it is a world where he is comfortable and a place where he is looking to get in with a particular type of people and seeing where that road leads him.

Having only heard about Carol in snippets previously it was easy to see her as a victim, but getting to know her makes you realise she isn’t the nicest person, nor is she that innocent. From early on Carol got little sympathy for me, she was manipulative and selfish and it appears she has secrets of her own. Her association with Micky was curious, never quite trusting one another and both trying to get something from the other. Micky isn’t a fool, he is smart and he is wary but he does get talked into things. Even after telling himself she is not to be trusted that she is playing him, he still goes along with her ideas, against his gut instinct.

I loved getting back into the gritty Underworld of Sydney, albeit from a different angle. Sendall captures the atmosphere of that life and the control one person can have over a place but doesn’t make it too over the top, unrealistic, or even overly dramatic. The hidden threat and the secret agenda of nearly everyone involved means that everyone can be hiding something and not really knowing what people are thinking or are capable of makes for an enthralling read.

Much like Heather this story is one of boats, the underworld, and an outsider looking for a way in, but Sendall makes it much more than that. He has managed to create an elaborate story with intricate connections and complex and mysterious characters that all come together in an engaging and clever read. Flank Street is a wonderful continuation of the series and with a conclusion that boggles your mind and makes you rethink everything you have read Sendall makes sure to uphold your interest and eagerness for the next book in the series.

You can purchase Flank Street via the following

Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.com.au

Barnes & Noble | Createspace

Heather: A Story of Sydney’s Underworld by A. J. Sendall

Published: 21st August 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Ascend Digital Publications
Pages: 449
Format: Ebook
Genre: Crime Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

When ageing escort Heather Todd rescues a stranger riding a wild self-destructive spiral, she discovers she has a chance to avenge the death of her sister, and many others. She taunts and cajoles the reluctant Sam into helping her gather evidence against the notorious Reed brothers.
When Sam agrees to join her, they embark on a daring, high-risk venture that takes them deep into the underworld, and then half-way around the world and almost home again …

Heather is a story about how people are changed by circumstance and pressure; both external and internal. And how when released from that pressure, some are able to become their true selves.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the author for review.

Sendall has developed and executed this story brilliantly, with style and surprise. From the intriguing prologue to the gripping final pages it’s a story that’s clever, captivating and at times heartbreaking. The narrative is exciting and suspenseful, even when nothing much is happening plot wise, meaning you are never sure what is going to happen, and while you often cannot condone what these characters do, they draw you in and intrigue you all the same.

The characters are certainly interesting, and they’re presented in a way that shows just how complex they are which makes them real, meaning even the bad guys got a lot of compassion and sympathy from me as I read. With characters so complicated makes for a great mixture of people working and clashing with one another and adds another level to the story.

Sam and Heather are from completely different worlds and seeing them get to know one another is interesting in itself. Despite their past lives they come together for a single goal and as their relationship develops they end up working quite well together. This goal seems quite unexpected but it isn’t too fanciful either, especially coming from Heather, if it has been Sam then I think it would not have been as understandable.

Sam is a straightforward character; he goes into undercover stealth mode quite quickly, his past career training kicking in most likely. He knows what needs to be done and he is methodical and callous from the start, planning it all out and eager to help make Heather’s idea a reality. He does show some uncertainty and moral debate, but he is also violent at times which was a curious contrast.

Heather is curious because while she seems timid and unsure of herself, infiltrating the underworld was her idea and she plays key roles in their plan just as much as Sam does. In a way you want her to make it more than Sam, hers is a more tragic story than his and you want her to succeed in getting herself a better life. She fights her fears more often than not and seeing her grow is really wonderful.

The story is told via multiple points of view, from both sides, which provides depth and meaning to the story. With Heather and Sam it allows a chance to sense their apprehension and thoughts about their plans, but with the added points of view of Reed and his men it adds extra intrigue to the story, certainly more insight, and a feeling of completeness to the entire story.

The time frame is realistic, taking place across multiple months, though it doesn’t read as slow nor does it drag out and it demonstrates the gradual build up and infiltration Heather and Sam are trying to achieve. While it is possible to see Sam and Heather’s plan as unbelievable and unachievable since they are seemingly just regular people, it still works. Heather was already connected to the Reeds in a small but real way and Sam has the skill set to get himself inside convincingly and realistically.

The simmering suspense and anticipation makes it a great read and one where anything is possible. You want Sam and Heather’s to achieve their goals but at the same time you are fully aware that anything could go wrong and ruin everything. Even up until the final pages when everything comes to a head Sendall makes sure you have no idea exactly what will happen and brings your anticipation to the max.

 This is a five star book not because it is mind blowing amazing and filled with action all the time, but rather because it is clever, and Sendall has built up this story remarkably well and concludes it perfectly in a way that is suitable and agreeable, but also a little bit heartbreaking.

You can purchase Heather via the following

Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.com.au

Barnes & Noble | Createspace | Flipkart

 

To the Dogs by Halfdan Hussey

Published:  31st October 2010
Goodreads badgePublisher: Createspace
Pages: 360
Format: ebook
Genre: Crime/Suspense
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

TO THE DOGS, a transformative Irish and Mexican crime drama, explores true power. A young man’s losses incite his fall from integrity into the world of crime where he fights to rise. And with his rise, he falls to the gutter, to the dogs, where also lies the power of redemption. In 1949, young Jack Niesen, who lost his father to WWII, takes responsibility for a horrifying accident on his family farm. Jack, unable to face the guilt, takes off and hits the road. Jack soon experiences his first taste of crime; and, thereafter he enjoys a passionate encounter with a beautiful woman. Eventually, he lands in the orchards of Northern California, a time and place where Mexican labor and the Irish are fighting for land and money. Jack fights for power in this world while his brother, remaining in the heartland and coping with his losses, seeks love and the inner journey. An affair with Irish tycoon Tiernan’s sister and a brutal murder of a Mexican work crew propel Jack into an unwinnable situation that worsens when the girl he met on the road shows up pregnant. A bloody climax threatens everyone. Jack’s sons, Mick and Marcus, grow up successful criminals yet very different people. A family betrayal drives Marcus away from Mick and towards the world his father left behind. A surprise encounter offers Marcus a choice that will determine his power, his future and more.

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review.

This is a wonderful story that Hussey has written. As you read you pick up connections and understand the story in a casual yet telling way that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Starting in the middle of a scene we are introduced to Jack and his brother, his mother by his side and it is from there we are brought into Jack’s life, going where he goes and watching as he tries to transform his life.

Jack’s downfall is his inability to express his emotions properly; he does not deal with them well, something obvious from the early pages and still evident to a point in the last. There is a lot you can not like in Jack, you can certainly disapprove of his behaviour and even at times not understand it. But it isn’t until later in the story that you realise why he does what he does and what he is trying to achieve that you start to see him as a whole. Before you accept it and come to this realisation his behaviour seems a bit over the top and you really don’t get it, but by the end it becomes clear and you can’t help but feel sorry for him in a way.

Starting in the 1940s the story jumps through time from then until the present day, moving from the past to the present as we follow Jack’s life in the past, to his sons in the present. The jumps in time and hints at relationships and events make your mind work through theories and wonder what happened in between and how things came to be. Hussey makes you keep reading to find out, even early on there is a need and desire to get answers and to keep reading, hoping to find out what we want to know and discover just what has happened during these gaps in time.

I like Jack. As a character he is fairly strange when we are first introduced but in a way he grows on you. He is determined and you soon understand all his peculiarities which makes you admire him a little bit. The same is almost true for Mike and Marcus, with less to understand you still get to know them through their stories and how their lives have shaped who they have become and what impact that has had on how they see themselves and their relationship to their family.

Hussey’s writing style is marvellous, it doesn’t seem extra grand or very special all the time, but there are moments where you admire how everything clicks in place, and everything has its place in the story. There are other times it is almost profound in how it alludes to the future and it gives a sense of foretelling in a way, but more often than not it is profound and cleverly placed in the story. Hussey uses his words well and everything has a point, each word has a job to do, to tell us about relationships, about futures, and about who these characters are.

Hussey has a talent in being able to capture the scene with great storytelling and you are able to picture the actions and feel the emotions really well, whether they are good, bad, or somewhere in-between. He is a master in showing not telling as information is given to us in the story and in style, not just because the reader should know but because it makes sense. Things don’t need to be addressed directly if you pay attention to what Hussey is trying to tell us through his characters and through his narrative. The answers to questions may not even be given for another chapter or until the last pages and only when it is necessary. Hussey gives the reader a story in its entirety but it is also not a story the reader is being told exactly, we are onlookers in a way. What I liked was that there weren’t moments where the story stopped to explain the missing time or other facts, instead this information is drawn out slowly; through conversation, thoughts, casual references, and by the end you know the whole story and you finish reading satisfied.

If you don’t love this book for the story, and you really do after awhile, you can’t help but admire the skill in the writing. The way Hussey has constructed this story makes you ask questions, fills in answers to other questions you didn’t know you wanted answers to and you get caught up in the smooth style and the captivating characters. We are given three points of view interchanging throughout; Jack and Mick are third person, while Marcus is given first person point of view. It is interesting why Hussey has done it this way; certainly Marcus offers more of an emotional aspect than the others. He is definitely meant to be the odd one out, even if he is still similar to his brother and father.

This is certainly a story that makes you pity Jack, and even the boys to an extent and you yearn for things to have gone differently for Jack. Though even after seeing what he has done in his life you actually don’t blame him in a strange way, he was created by his mother’s absence nature and he wasn’t able to cope, making him unable to find comfort and relief in himself or others. This is his downfall and while you are sad for him as you read his story, it isn’t until the end that you really pity him.

With a narrative that keeps you hooked and a variety of characters who fill their roles so perfectly, there is little to not like about this book. While being a crime novel there isn’t actually a lot of crime, and what there is isn’t over the top or gory. It is real and practical, and only adds to the rest of the story and its characters. Hussey manages to make you root for these characters, admire them, and he makes the crime world nice somehow and makes you feel compassion and see the good guy in those who most likely don’t deserve it. It is a wonderful and captivating read.

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