Poison City: An Adult Fiction Read-It-If Review


read it if NEW BUTTON

After a week of kidlit, I’ve got a grown-up book for you today, full of supernatural menace and shady police work.  We received Poison City by Paul Crilley from the publisher via Netgalley for review and were quite amazed to find out how closely it resembles one of our favourite supernatural police series….at least in the opening chapters.  Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

The name’s Gideon Tau, but everyone just calls me London. I work for the Delphic Division, the occult investigative unit of the South African Police Service. My life revolves around two things – finding out who killed my daughter and imagining what I’m going to do to the bastard when I catch him.

I have two friends. The first is my boss, Armitage, a fifty-something DCI from Yorkshire who looks more like someone’s mother than a cop. Don’t let that fool you. The second is the dog, my magical spirit guide. He talks, he watches TV all day, and he’s a mean drunk.

Life is pretty routine – I solve crimes, I search for my daughter’s killer. Wash, rinse, repeat. Until the day I’m called out to the murder of a ramanga – a low-key vampire – basically, the tabloid journalist of the vampire world. It looks like an open and shut case. There’s even CCTV footage of the killer.

Except… the face on the CCTV footage? It’s the face of the man who killed my daughter. I’m about to face a tough choice. Catch her killer or save the world? I can’t do both.

It’s not looking good for the world.

Poison City is the first in a fantastical new series for fans of Ben Aaronovitch, Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz and Stephen King.

poison city

Read it if:

*you think there should be more supernatural police dramas set in South Africa

*you suspect your dog might have a problem with alcohol

*you wish there was a clever narrative device springing from which, when a favourite character dies, is a cheeky method of slotting them straight back into the story

*for you, diversity in literature means opening up the floor to gods, goddesses, spooks and ghouls from every nation and creed

*you are really just hoping to find a gritty, edgy, funny, violent, unexpected police series that happens to feature vampires, orishas and the Almighty

Poison City was an unexpected find.  Having seen a brief review of it and become intrigued by the possibility of an alcoholic, talking dog, I knew it was only a matter of time before I laid claw on it.  What I didn’t expect was how much it reminded me of Ben Aaronovitch’s DC Peter Grant series.  This is one of the Shelf’s favourite series ever (and we can’t wait to receive book six, The Hanging Tree, on pre-order any day now!).  Honestly, the first few chapters of Poison City read exactly as if Peter Grant had moved to South Africa, suffered a great personal tragedy, and taken to hanging out with an alcoholic, talking dog.  While this felt a bit weird to being with, it certainly helped me to ease into the story.

The book features the (mis)adventures of “London” Tau, who works at the police department’s Delphic Division, solving crimes that involve creatures not of this world.  Or at least, not of the human part of this world.  The alcoholic, talking dog is his slightly sub-par spirit guide, who spends most of his time sleeping and generally not being very helpful. I had high expectations for the dog, but I feel he was a bit underused, as Tau spends most of his time, rather unsurprisingly I suppose, solving mysteries with his partner.  Police partner, that is.

The book is far more violent and edgy than the Peter Grant series, with some pretty graphic scenes of gore and hearts being ripped out and so forth.  If that’s not your bag, you probably aren’t going to want to venture into this one.  By the end, I was a bit put off by all the violence, but I have to admit that the last few chapters certainly culminated in some surprising revelations about who was behind the dramas causing headaches for Tau.

Overall, this was a fast-paced, action-packed read, punctuated with humour and twists that I certainly didn’t see coming.  If you are up for a fairly graphic police procedural with an ungodly twist, then I can definitely recommend Poison City as a worthy choice.

Until next time,




ARC Read-it-if Review: Last God Standing…


Well, it’s been a long time coming, but finally today I have for you a review of the finest book about god-wars and stand up comedy I have read in the whole of this year, Last God Standing by Michael Boatman.  I was luckyenough to unexpectedly wrangle a copy for review from Angry Robot books – thanks!

Last God Standing follows everyman and stand-up comedian, Lando Cooper, as he struggles with all the problems inherent in being the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition attempting to reside in a mortal, human guise.  As if regular human problems such as nagging parents and relationship dramas weren’t enough, Lando is coming under consistent attack from other disgruntled deities who seem to have tapped into some extra divine power.  After being warned about a mysterious being called The Coming who appears to wish Lando and all of humanity nothing but ill, things begin to spin out of control and (human) life as he knows it starts falling apart.  How, in His name, is he going to keep his parents and girlfriend happy, save the earth while trapped in a human body AND make it as a stand up comedian without going crazy? Well it ain’t my job to tell you – you’ll have to read the book.

last god standing

Read it if:

* you have ever felt that you should, in fairness, have been blessed with some kind of divine power in order to make up for the fact that your parents are certifiable – as in, riding around on an ostrich to advertise their small business certifiable

* you’re the type that loves to hop on to any new spiritual fad, while simultaneously denouncing your most recent spiritual fad for screwing up your chi/karma/angel guide dog/spiritual GPS/(insert spiritual-ish term here)

* you have ever thought that awkward, messy or otherwise unsavoury experiences should come with an internal reset function

* you’re the kind of person who lives for the “Boss Battles” in level-grinding games – just to reassure yourself that what you have always suspected about yourself is true – that you are, in fact, a god in the body of a mortal

Alrighty.  Last God Standing was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The author, Michael Boatman, is a well known actor who has appeared on many shows that I have not seen.  His face is a bit familiar though.  Regardless, going into this without any expectations about the sort of comedy he might write was probably a plus I think.

There are a number of things about this book that I really enjoyed – Lando was a really likeable narrator and the other characters in the book are all pretty well fleshed out.  There’s also a nice mix of crazy deities and arguably crazier humans that brings a nice bit of variety to the situations that Lando finds himself embroiled in.    I particularly liked Lando’s inner voice, Connie (or Constant) who is the representation of a Native American Indian goddess (of the Navajo people, apparently)  known as Changing Woman.  I admit to having no knowledge whatsoever of Native American Indian deities, of Navajo origin or otherwise, but Boatman’s writing of this particular representation was fun and added a lot to plot twists that would otherwise have seen Lando monologuing a lot about his actions.  If you’ve read any of my reviews on Goodreads lately, you’ll know that excessive monologuing is currently one of my pet hates.  So a win for Boatman!

I was surprised how much I enjoyed what I’ve termed the Boss Battles in the story.  As mentioned, Lando has a number of encounters with deities of once-great religions (Zeus, Dionysus, and even Hannibal – who, while not a deity, does come equipped with a show-stealing quartermastodon named Persi) which involve a lot of action and whacking with sharp weapons and carnage and humiliating defeat.  Normally I’m not a big fan of long action sequences in books, but these really drew me in, possibly due to the amusing banter that went on alongside all the hacking and slashing and quartermastodon headbutting and so on.

There were a few things that did drag this down for me.  Well, not a few, specifically one thing. And that was the middle of the book.  I do not in any way wish to imply that nothing happens, or that the story drags or anything like that in the middle.  Essentially, I didn’t like it because things just get weird.  A whole lot of stuff started happening that seemed to come out of the blue and unless I applied great focus and concentration while reading, I had a tendency to lose the thread of what was going on.  Now towards the end of the middle, this became something of a problem, because there are certain things that happen at this point in the story that directly contribute to the climax.  So I found myself having to go back a bit and re-read in order to fully get a handle on the events at the most exciting point of the book.  At one point, I even considered putting the book down because it was all getting too confusing….

…BUT I’m glad I didn’t, because I REALLY liked the ending.  Somehow, after a spate of weirdness in the middle, things suddenly righted themselves and the last few chapters ended up being really quite exciting.  I really enjoyed the reveal – finding out about the nefarious being known as The Coming, finding out who was behind it, who was supporting it, how Lando was going to save us all from some very unpleasant business – and by the end, I didn’t want to put the book down.  Again, a win for Boatman!

So while there were a few blips on the “this book isn’t for me” radar, when looking back on it a few weeks after finishing it, I am pleased to find that there is a little feeling of fondness for Last God Standing.  In all honesty, I don’t think this book will be for everyone, but if you enjoy a bit of comedy, a bit of divinity, a bit of gratuitous carnage and some general silliness in your reading, I would recommend giving this one a go.

Last God Standing is due for publication on the 25th of March.

Until next time,



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Afterworld ARC Review: Read it if….


Evening all!  Today’s young adult ARC, Afterworld by Lynnette Lounsbury, was received from Allen & Unwin Teen in return for an honest review  – thanks A&U T!

Afterworld is the story of 15 year old Dominic Mathers’ journey into a life-beyond-life after his untimely demise in a car accident in India.  Dom finds himself in the Necropolis, a city that was originally intended as a place of preparation and learning for the newly dead before they attempt to progress to the next stage of their journey in the afterlife, but has degenerated into a place of hopelessness, inertia and eternal waiting for most of its inhabitants.  Humans share the Necropolis with the Nephilim, a race that are the offspring of humans and angels.  Satarial, leader of the Nephilim, has instigated the spectator sport of the Trials, in which hopeful denizens of the city can compete, and if successful, win the right to move on to the next part of the afterlife, known as the Maze.  A loss in the Trials, however will doom the contestant to a fate worse than death.

When Satarial manages to bring Dom’s sister Kaide into the Necropolis while she is still alive, Dom is forced to participate in the Trials.  With his Guide Eva and Guardian Eduardo, he just might have a chance to be the youngest person ever to beat the Nephilim at their own game. But then again, he might not!


Read it if:

* your idea of heaven inolves making new friends while picking fruit on a slightly dreary working holiday

* you adhere strongly to the personal motto, “time is money”

* you suspect that being presented with a functional and fashionable accessory (like a fancy new satchel) on your entry to the next plane of existence would go a long way to making up for the untimely nature of your demise

* you’re looking for a cracking good read that will exercise your little grey cells and give you something to chew over while you chew over your breakfast bagel, lunchtime linguini, or other reading-related snack food

Three (serendipitously alliterative!) features about this book struck me while I was reading it – its cohesion, its character development and the cerebral nature of the content.  Lounsbury has created an amazingly detailed imagining of an afterlife in this book and the world-building hangs together flawlessly.  There was never a point at which I had to question how the world worked or a description that jarred me out of my disbelief suspension.  When writers get that bit right, it becomes very hard for me to put a book down.  Score one to Lounsbury!

Another really enjoyable afterthought of the book was the thoughtful character development.  All of the main group of characters in Afterworld, bar one I felt, had depth – and even the one who could have done with a little more complexity had enough twists and red herrings in her plot trajectory to prevent me from dismissing her out of hand.  While there was a little bit of repetition in the behaviour of the characters – Dom and Eva tend to “smirk” a lot, and Kaide spends 95% of her time in a “laugh” – the dialogue, motivations and changes of heart of the characters seemed genuine and believable.  In-depth characterisation can be one of the things that’s often missing in YA novels, replaced by cliched villains and ordinary heroes, so I was happy to find it here.  It wasn’t the greatest part of the story (that was undoubtedly the world-building), but it allowed the concepts to be accessed more easily.

I did not find this book to be a light read.  At over 400 pages, it was never going to be quick either, but the way the author has woven multiple ideas and religious traditions into one cohesive vision of an afterlife really makes for a thought-provoking read. Or maybe that should be a thought-promoting read….Afterworld has enough heft in the storyline and world-building to give those interested in theories about the misadventures (or otherwise) of those who have shuffled off this mortal coil some new fodder to argue about.  The proof that I received had set the suggested age range at 13 to 18 years, but I really think this is a book that older teens will get the most out of.

Afterworld definitely offers a reading experience that is different from your average paranormal-type YA adventure.  If you’re looking for something that requires you to engage your brain as you read, then it might be the book for you.  It’s due to be published in February, so for now it’ll be one to pop on your TBR list.

Oh, and don’t forget to consider signing up for the Small Fry Safari Kid Lit Readers Challenge – YA books are most welcome.  BYO funky safari hat.

Until next time,


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