Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Best Left in the Shadows

An Echo of the Ascended

by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

Fantasy | Novella | 80 Pages | Published by Gelineau and King in 2015

| Rating |

This book was received from Netgalley in return for an honest review

Gelineau and King take precedence over my reading pile as once again we return for a flying but highly satisfying visit to the world of Aedaron. Following the story of Alys, we are treated to another sub-genre shift as we enter Prionside in this fantastical detective noir, where the inhabitants of Highside and Lowside are divided by more than just distance.

Following my ever increasing enjoyment of the previous novellas, A Reaper of Stone and Rend the Dark, I had high hopes for another different but equally dazzling exploration of this dark and varied world. And Best Left in the Shadows does exactly this; with a feisty heroine and gritty urban setting, this short and satisfying read ticks another box for these talented and instantly addictive authors.

A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.

Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.

Together, they travel into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer.

Best Left in the Shadows follows the story of Alys, an intelligent and street-wise young woman who earns her living trading secrets amongst the underworld of Lowside. But when a daughter of the Highside nobility is found murdered on the docks in Prionside, and the magistrate called in to investigate is a man whose past is entangled with her own, Alys must lead him through a maze of canals, alleyways and underworld politics to solve the case and find justice for the murdered girl. But with a complicated past and secrets of their own, there is more to discover than just the author of this crime.

This latest novella introduces yet another aspect of the diverse and rich world of Aedaron, where this time we venture into a city of crime and vice, providing the perfect backdrop to this detective noir. Twisted and narrow alleyways, dark and dirty canals, sewerworks and sumpworks, brothels and taverns, all play an intrinsic role in building up this grimy, industrial landscape where if its not for sale, it can and will be taken by force. With a knife in the back or a bolt to the neck an ever present possibility, the narrative conjures a dangerous setting for any criminal investigation.

Gelineau and King once again do not fail to impress with their effortless depiction of this slum-like city; one which is entirely different to its predecessors but an intrinsic part of the whole. Their descriptions are effortless, their humour ever-present, and the introduction to new characters in a new corner of the world make for an excellent, if short, read. The brief but enticing mentions of Highside also leave an intriguing impression and will no doubt come into play during future novellas. I certainly cannot wait to see a clash between these two opposing sides of the city and society.

Whilst the myriad ne’er-do-wells of Prionside make for a colourful cast of characters that intrigue, excite and lend more than a handful of tension and drama to this fantastical crime novella, it is the protagonists of this tale which truly shine. Alys has a fantastic and almost comedic voice; her tone conveying a light-hearted side to a novella which would otherwise seem much darker. Along with Dax, our investigating magistrate, the two play off one another to leave an impression of two fascinating characters whose tangled web of history and secrets provide an intriguing aside to the main narrative and which are slowly revealed over the course of the novella. And with a great deal more still to discover about the pair, we’re left with an enticing hook for the next Alys novella.

Best Left in the Shadows in another fantastic addition to the authors’ repertoire and, with the creation of another distinct and well-realised aspect of an already impressive world, had me hooked on Alys’ story from the very start. Whilst the thought of formulating an intriguing detective story over so short a read seems nigh impossible, Gelineau and King manage to craft a mysterious and satisfying tale which wraps up neatly at its conclusion and leaves enough personal intrigue to draw you onto the next novella. As a lover of crime and detective fiction, I can only hope that this theme is here to stay.

If you love being able to slip into a world in a multitude of sub-genres, experience it through the eyes of different characters, explore its different towns and cities and meet its varied inhabitants, then I couldn’t recommend the Echoes of the Ascended novellas enough. Best Left in the Shadows is another fantastic addition to this highly enjoyable series and can either be read on its own or as part of the whole. Once again, I’ve come away impressed and even more addicted to this dangerously compelling world, and I cannot wait for my next adventure with Alys!

Miss the author interview with Mark Gelineau and Joe King? Check it out here

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Review: The American by Nadia Dalbuono

Blog Tour - The American

The American

A Leone Scamarcio Thriller

by Nadia Dalbuono

Crime | Thriller | 362 Pages | Published by Scribe in 2016

| Rating |

Welcome to the next stop in ‘The American’ Blog Tour. Please check out the other fantastic blogs along the way!

The Few, Nadia Dalbuono’s first Leone Scamarcio crime thriller, was a stunning debut and came out on top in my favourite reads of 2015. But now there is a serious contender to take its crown with the 2016 release of the next Leone Scamarcio thriller –  The American.

This is a complex, intricately woven tale led by a conflicted and intelligent protagonist who consistently finds himself drawn into the darker side of Rome, whilst hindered by the, ever frustrating, Italian justice system. And it completely blew me away. This is a thriller rooted in conspiracy with a scope so huge that it stretches far across the globe; with a surfeit of criminals and mobsters, politicians and priests, this is a narrative embroiled in the darkest depths of world politics which is at once utterly absorbing and incredibly difficult to put down. This is a world where no one’s hands are clean and nobody can be wholly trusted.

The second Leone Scamarcio thriller.

As autumn sets in, the queues outside the soup kitchens of Rome are lengthening, and the people are taking to the piazzas, increasingly frustrated by the deepening economic crisis.

When Detective Leone Scamarcio is called to an apparent suicide on the Ponte Sant’Angelo, a stone’s throw from Vatican City, the dead man’s expensive suit suggests yet another businessman fallen on hard times. But Scamarcio is immediately troubled by similarities with the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, dubbed ‘God’s Banker’ because of his work for the Vatican Bank.

When, days later, a cardinal with links to the bank is killed, and the CIA send a couple of heavies to warn him off the case, Scamarcio knows he’s onto something big.

As disturbing connections between 9/11, America’s dirty wars, Vatican corruption, the Mafia,  and Italy’s violence against its own people begin to emerge, Scamarcio is forced to deal with responsibilities far above his pay grade — in this tightly plotted mystery full of political intrigue.

When a man is found hanged at the Ponte Sant’Angelo with apparent links to an historic case, Detective Leone Scamarcio finds himself entangled in a complex web of conspiracy which stretches across time and history with far reaching implications. With suspicious links to the Vatican and little to no communication from the Vatican Police, the apparent and bloody involvement of the mafia, and a mysterious American secret service agency vying to counter his every move, Scamarcio must countermand his superiors to solve the crime before he becomes just another body floating down the river.

The American is a superbly crafted, incredibly tangled and ultimately thrilling tale which completely absorbed me from start to finish. Rome is depicted in a violent clash of blood and beauty, coming to life with the expert portrayal of both its stark and rich splendour and its dark and dirty underworld. Dalbuono does not romanticise but her writing is so rich and her descriptions are so vivid that it’s not hard to feel an instant connection to the city, and indeed, the case.

Leone Scamarcio continues to develop as a conflicted protagonist who, despite his best efforts to enforce justice, consistently finds himself stonewalled by the Italian judiciary system which is mired in an excess of bureaucracy. With a past firmly rooted in the mafia, Scamarcio must constantly choose between this defunct system of government and the dangerous but effective trade of information and favours which tie him to the criminal organisations of his past. And, with time against him, who he decides to place his trust in could quite literally be a matter of life and death.

Dalbuono’s writing continues to impress as she weaves her incredibly tangled web of cold war tension, world politics, government secrets and organised crime. And she doesn’t drop the thread once. The American is a fast-paced, thrilling tale which deserves a reputation amongst the greats of crime fiction and will undoubtedly remain a favourite of mine for years to come. Dalbuono, whilst consistently compared to Donna Leon, has a scale and scope to her writing which is so great, and a narrative so thrilling and rooted in danger, that the Leone Scamarcio thrillers deserve to be recognised in their own right. 

The American is a novel which will have you on the edge of your seat, casting an eye of suspicion upon powerful governments across the globe and, whilst there are hints and links back to The Few throughout the novel (and perhaps a few spoilers), can essentially be read as a stand alone novel. By the time it comes to a close however, you will be in desperate need of another Scamarcio fix as Dalbuono leaves you thrilled, amazed and on tenterhooks for her next novel. If you a hungering for a fast-paced and intelligent crime thriller, then you must try out the writing of Nadia Dalbuono – she never fails to impress.

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Leone Scamarcio

2015: A Year in Review


| Books by Proxy – A Year in Review |

Welcome to my first end of year post – and what a year it has been! I started this blog on the last day of July and, over the last half of 2015, have found myself as part of a wonderful community of readers and bloggers. In my albeit limited experience, we book bloggers are lucky to enjoy a very friendly and supportive community, where sharing our books, our reviews and our experiences is all done for a love of reading and can be enjoyed by many. So thank you readers and thank you bloggers for making 2015 such an enjoyable year. I hope you all have a fantastic 2016!heart

| A Year in Books |

I think we can all agree these two very similar and equally profound books, Blood Song by Anthony Ryan and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, deservedly made it into my longest and shortest book categories.heart


Donna Leon


Leon 10

with ten books in her Commissario Brunetti series


2015 - 6

P.G. Wodehouse

with nine books in total including seven from his Blandings series


Jim Butcher

with eight books in The Dresden Files series


AC - 6

Agatha Christie

with six books in her Hercule Poirot series


best fantasyBlood Song

Book One of the Raven’s Shadow Series

by Anthony Ryan



Best SciFiRed Rising

Book One of the Red Rising Trilogy

by Pierce Brown

heartSci Fi Five


best novellaThe SerpentThe Serpent

The Gameshouse I

by Claire North



best crimeThe Few

A Leone Scamarcio Thriller

by Nadia Dalbuonoheart


best historicalLamentationLamentation

Book Six of the Matthew Shardlake Series

by C.J. Sansom



best classicSomething FreshSomething Fresh

Book One of the Blandings Series

by P.G. Wodehouse



There were so many more amazing books which deserve to be on this list but then it would just be most of 2015’s books!

Thank you all for reading and have a wonderful 2016!

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Review: The Few by Nadia Dalbuono


The Few

by Nadia Dalbuono

Crime | Thriller | 356 Pages | Published by Scribe in 2014

| Rating |

This book was received from Scribe Publications as part of the Goodreads giveaway scheme in return for an honest review

Just when I was having Italian crime novel withdrawal symptoms – thank you Donna Leon – Nadia Dalbuono’s debut novel, The Few, comes along to send me spiralling into the murky underworld of murderers, drug pushers and human traffickers. As the bodies start to pile up, Detective Leone Scamarcio must navigate his way through mafiosi, corrupt politicians  and drug lords to get to the root of the crime.  With a shadowy past of his own, secrets will be spilled, blood will be shed and one question remains: can those above the law be brought to justice?

Detective Leone Scamarcio, the son of a former leading Mafioso, has turned his back on the family business, and has joined the Rome police force. He may be one of the last honest men in Italy. 

But when Scamarcio is handed a file of extremely compromising photographs of high-ranking Italian government officials, and told to ‘deal with it’, he knows he’s in for trouble. And when a young man is found stabbed in his apartment in Rome and a little girl disappears on a beach in Elba, Scamarcio’s job gets a whole lot more complicated. 

Worst of all, every lead seems to implicate the prime minister — a multi-media baron, and the most powerful man in Italy. 

As the case spins out of control, and his own past catches up with him, Scamarcio must navigate the darkest currents of Italian society — only to find that nothing is as it seems, and that the price of truth may be higher than he can pay.

When a number of compromising photographs end up in police hands and a series of clues links the investigation to the abduction of a young child on Elba, Detective Leone Scamarcio soon finds himself entangled in a case far more complicated and infinitely more serious than he could have predicted. From Rome, to Naples and to the island of Elba, Scamarcio must navigate his way through a tide of corruption and dishonesty to solve a number of connected crimes and uncover the web of corruption which lies at the heart of Italian politics.

The Few is a darkly disturbing thriller which transports you into a world of sex workers, corrupt politicians and child traffickers,  a world which is both horrifying and disturbingly real. Dalbuono writes with skill and detail and, as the investigation grows and the number of suspects lengthens, the plot twists and turns to create an intricately woven narrative. The complexity of the plot coupled with almost constant tension lend themselves to a highly sophisticated and wholly convincing novel.

The Few opens at a steady pace, gathering momentum as links and connections are uncovered which take Scamarcio from the heart of Rome to the beaches of Elba in an increasingly complicated investigation. Dalbuono captures both the romanticism and the gritty reality of Rome and Elba in an unobtrusive flow of description which finely balances the contradictory beauty of the country with its dark conspiratorial undercurrents. Whilst the narrative is always to the point and remains tense throughout, the short descriptive passages slot in seamlessly to lend depth and realism to the narrative.

Detective Leone Scamarcio is a convincing and likeable character. He is a man who has worked hard to escape his past and who finds himself confronted with it on one too many occasions. He is the emotional connection to the novel, the guiding hand who exhibits the reactions the reader is likely to experience. The other characters are created to draw suspicion – law enforcers, politicians and civilians alike – everyone is a suspect, everyone is linked and everyone is utterly suspicious. The Few might not be so few after all.

The Few is a fantastic debut with a charm all of its own and a suitably mysterious protagonist who is sure to draw readers back for more. Fans of crime thrillers should find this a well-paced, exhilarating read and, having only amplified my cravings for more Italian crime fiction, I can only wait for The American’s release next year. Thoroughly enjoyed. Heartily recommended. Want more.

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