Review: A DARK REDEMPTION by Stav Sherez

As my shelves (and digital devices) are quite literally groaning under the weight of police procedural novels set in England I’m not really in the market for another series to follow. But given I still have strong images in my head from the last book I read by Sherez (set in Greece) I couldn’t resist this first instalment of a promised new series even though it’s in a crowded space. It turns out to have been a good decision..

A DARK REDEMPTION opens with three young men taking a trip to Uganda following their university graduation and before they have to knuckle down to jobs and real life. On their travels they make a seemingly random choice which leads them into the clutches of a rebel army and a grim stretch in custody though at this point we don’t learn a lot of the details of what went on. The main part of the story then starts, taking place a dozen or so years later. Jack Carrigan, one of the three men who had travelled to Africa, is a Detective Inspector in London and he is put in charge of the investigation into the brutal murder of a young African student named Grace Okello. But Jack has made enemies on the force and his boss forces Geneva Miller, a woman who has had her own brushes with bureaucracy, to be the DS on the investigation. She is to assist Jack and report back to his superiors about his behaviour and methods. At the start of the investigation the two are wary of each other and also have different ideas about the motivations for the murder – with Jack thinking her violent boyfriend responsible and Geneva wondering if it is somehow linked to Grace’s research into the armed conflict in her native country. But as the case unfolds the two detectives develop a respect for each other and of course narrow down the focus of their investigation.

I was a little wary of the themes this book looked set to tackle given that I started it as the Kony 2012 social media frenzy was in full swing. Happily my fears were unfounded as Sherez deals with the African elements of the story (including the aforementioned Kony) sensitively and intelligently; managing to portray nuances of the situation in both Uganda and amongst the displaced African community living in England that you won’t find in most mainstream media. Some of the segments of the book are violent but it never feels at all gratuitous and the story would not feel authentic if there were not some level of violence given what we know about the recent real-world history that provides the story’s backdrop. Sherez uses several methods for imparting the relevant information about Ugandan history and politics and in combination these are quite the lesson in how authors of this type of novel can do such things without making the reader feel as if they are in a lecture theatre.

I agree with Sarah at Crimepieces who wrote that Carrigan’s maverick status was depicted in an understated way as that is exactly how I felt. Too many crime books these days appear to be working from a list of quirks and anti-authority behaviours to give their protagonists and there is a tendency to go overboard or have no real reason for the traits displayed. Jack is not at the extreme end of the scale and any foibles he does have make sense within the context that Sherez provides. There are also quite a few hints of secrets still to be explored in both his and Miller’s lives in what I hope will be some future instalments of the series as I enjoyed both characters and would happily read more of their exploits.

On one level I suppose this book is ‘just’ police procedural novel but it is a superior example of the genre. Both thoughtful and thought-provoking A DARK REDEMPTION manages to explore a complex issue without either sensationalising them or treating readers like morons and for that alone I applaud it. The fact that it also provides a suspense-filled mystery and a decent resolution is icing on this excellent cake. To undoubtedly stretch the dessert metaphor a little too far the narration by English actor David Thorpe is the delicious chocolate sprinkles on the icing :)

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Sidenote: I know that authors normally have little influence over their book covers so it’s unfair to include this in the review proper (and I have not taken the matter into account) but this cover couldn’t be less relevant to the book if it tried. The near ubiquitous shadowy silhouettes that are much beloved of crime fiction marketing/publishing types these days tell us nothing to make us pick up the book or to mark it out as unique and, now that I’ve read it, don’t even hint at anything going on within the story. If a cover is going to be this irrelevant why bother?

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A DARKER REDEMPTION has been reviewed at Crimepieces and It’s A Crime.

I reviewed an earlier, unrelated book by Sherez set in Greece called THE BLACK MONASTERY in the early days of this blog.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4/5
Narrator David Thorpe
Publisher Audible Ltd [2012]
ASIN B007D56PK4 (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 11 hours 11 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #1 in the Carrigan and Miller series
Source I bought it
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://reactionstoreading.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

11 thoughts on “Review: A DARK REDEMPTION by Stav Sherez

  1. Thank you so much for your kind and perceptive review. Really glad you enjoyed the book. Am looking forward to hearing the audio. Very weird to hear your own sentences come out of someone else’s mouth!

  2. Glad you liked it Bernadette and I agree that the violence although brutal is almost certainly a reflection of the situation both in Africa and in parts of the community in the UK. I think it should make really good series even if means more weight to your bookshelves!

    • at least audio books are weightless, though they still don’t arrive with the extra hours one needs in one’s life to read all the ‘must read’ books.

  3. Bernadette – I’m really glad you liked this one. I couldn’t agree with you more that understatement is often the key to a good story. That’s especially true I think of stories like this one, where the themes can be made overblown and melodramatic as too many news outlets try to do. And you’re quite right about that checklist for quirks and anti-authority behaviour – how did you know about it? ;-)

  4. Very nice review, as ever, Bernadette. I had not picked up until now that you had reviewed The Black Monastery, which in the end I decided not to read because of the luridly revolting synopsis! Maybe I should have been braver as you gave it 4/5. Anyhow, I do have this book as a kind friend sent it to me, so I am planning to read it soon. Looking forward to it, I do enjoy police procedurals and I’m glad that this one is “understated”. Agree about the cover and also that this is outside the author’s control- it is a bit sad, though.

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