Lust Money and Murder, Mike Wells
When Mike Wells approached me on Twitter, offering me a free ebook of the first novel in his series, I was initially suspicious. After googling Mike, and ensuring that he is in fact a person, and his books are the real deal, and not a twitter scam to part me with my private information, I downloaded it, still rather uncertain, despite the overwhelmingly good reviews that I had already seen. As somoene who has a personal preference for only certain genres, I wasn’t entirely sold on the whole crime thriller thing, especially since my tastes there run more towards the supernaturally-inlcined mysteries, or the classics that everyone is familiar with, like Christie.
Mike Wells seemed determined to prove me wrong from the very first line and from the on it took me only a few pages to believe the people who had called his style “unputdownable”.
I was pleasantly surprised by his cadence, and his word choice, as well as the fact that he had chosen to write a female character – and – to write one well. His fleshing out of Elaine is what really sold me on the series. Very rarely do you see a well-written strong female character in the male-dominated kingdom of the hard-boiled crime thriller genre, and very rarely, one written by a male author, without any of the stipulations of her becoming a sex object of some sort for her male counterparts.
The plot of the novel is classic, as much as a revenge story can be, and Elaine’s determination is written into her in such a powerful and affecting manner that her captivating voice stays with the reader long after they’ve finished the book. In fact, the close third person narrative makes the story all the more personable, without any of the negative stipulations that sometimes come with a first person perspective.
As a Bulgarian, I had my reservations the moment I read my country’s name on the page, already expecting the usual representation of my country as a mob-infested crime ridden third world mess that has somehow found itself in the corners of the EU. In fact, that is a representation that I have grown so used to in western literature, that it takes me by surprise when an author takes their time to go beyond the surface of media reports about government corruption and high unemployment rates or criminal activity. Wells impresses with an in-depth beautiful portrayl of Sofia, which feels all the more familiar for my knowing all the places that he names, and in fact having been in some of them. Objective, without being unnecessarily harsh, he weaves the picture of a Sofia that were I foreigner, I would want to visit. Of course, the representation of my home town leaves something to be desired, but given the care and attention to detail that have clearly already gone into it, I can safely say Wells has left me feeling rather good about myself as a Bulgarian.
The plot itself doesn’t depend so much on the setting, as it does on the characters, and the way Elaine handles herself regardless of her circumstance is beautifully done. As a woman, I want to commend Wells on his handling of Elaine’s sexual assault – portraying it as a brutal and crude action,without attemptint to sexualize it, and furthermore, accentuating the challenges a woman in Elaine’s position would face based on her choice to report it or not, and the messages it internalizes. In fact, the portrayal of Elaine as a woman who is not necessarily comfortable with sex and relationships is something that I am sure a lot of women will be able to, and having written it without stigma, and without having it affect her choices and behaviours, Wells actually creates a very believeable and realistic character, who reads very much like a real person. The occasional mention of her close friends, and their appearance in her life also adds to a more fully fleshed out character, as authors oftentimes forget that in order for their story to be believable, their characters must have a life off page, and cannot realistically interact only with two other secondary characters and the murder victims on their cases (yeah, I’m looking at you, Stephen Moffat).
The chosen centric to the story crimes – corruption and counterfeit currency, are rather original in a market dominated almost entirely by griesly murders, kidnappings, and the like, and give a more elegant sound to the rest of the books, setting it apart with a sense that this will be more than a simple whodunnit mystery. In fact, the attention to detail in the counterfeit plot, almost entirely makes up for the fact that the story does in fact start with a murder. But even that is set up and written so clverely and with such a sense of finesse and propriety, that it redeems itself as an attention-grabbing first chapter almost immediately.
The story is dynamic and fast-paced, and the details that set it up are woven in cleverly and with attention, building a fascinating read and setting up the rest of the series, which, if they keep to the same high standard, promise to be a wonderful read. I can definitely say that with this book, Mike Wells has won me as a fan and you can definitely expect to see more reviews of his work on this blog.