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Friday, 17 August 2012

Book Review: Wrath by Kirkus MacGowan

Check inside Amazon UK here
Check inside Amazon US here
 "Cover Design by
Copyright 2012" 
Firstly, I have to declare an interest. Kirkus MacGowan and I follow each other on Twitter and we chat from time to time, well, he chats and I moan.  This is his third book well second if you count the middle one as a very short but hilarious story about a garden gnome, which come to think about, I didn't review. And, as I am known to be a bit of a moaner and highly critical of anything produced by people who have more talent than I, just for the sheer sake of argument, he foolishly sent me an, in advance of publication, look at his new book, silly man.

Anyway,  I did review his first full novel, The Fall of Billy Hitchins and ended up giving it a good rating even although I did say about it, at the time;
What we ended up with was a book that began with a forgettable stroll around the park, jumped over the railing onto the running track and into a gentle jog and then burst into a sprint as the story progressed.
You can read that full review here

One of the central characters of the first book was an ex marine turned bodyguard by the name of John Reeves and MacGowan has, it seems, decided to maybe build around this guy for this and possibly future outings, was it a good idea to resurrect the character, well lets see shall we.

Did Wrath start with a forgettable stroll around the park as TFOBH did, no it did not! It didn't even start with John Reeves, it started with his big brother Alan, a Police Captain in their home town of Clarksbridge, Michigan, gently questioning an old and valued family friend, a friend of their dead father who had been found naked in the middle of the road after having been missing for over a week.

It really is going to be difficult to review this book without giving away spoilers, so all I can say is, that as the interview is over and the old chap is about to leave the station and head home, a mysterious phone call is received asking for him.  Alan Reeves hands him the phone, he listens, he drops the phone on the desk and he dies, horribly.......

This marks the beginning of trouble for the Clarksbridge Police Force who are short of manpower and it also marks the start of a horrifying chain of events with others dying, old men and young women, what is the connection and just how are the old men dying, well actually that's easy as the book describes their deaths in cold brutal fashion, and they aint pretty deaths either.  The only problem is that we know  something or someone is causing the deaths but how the hell is it happening.

John Reeves has returned to Clarksbridge at the behest of his best friend Eddy, a private investigator and even his brother doesn't know he is back in town.  It is only when the widow of the first 'victim' engages Eddy, and John starts digging around, Alan discovers his brother is back, they haven't spoken for five years since John didn't return for the funeral of Alan's wife, so the relationship is, well families, you know what I mean....

An old photograph of the Reeves' father starts turning up at the crime scenes, hidden from the first forensic sweeps, and this adds to the intrigue.  The mysterious Rachel turns up again, you'll remember her from TFOBH,  and again on the end of a phone, providing clues and assistance from afar, second story in and that seems to be working; one day MacGowan may let us in on her back story, or she may in fact turn out to be the equivalent of 'Charlie' from the Angels who keeps mysteriously popping up, but never explained, and in the end he (Charlie) didn't need to be, did he?

Unlike TFOBH, there was no stroll around the park in this one, it started with one gruesome death and just kept going from there.  Don't be mistaken though, this wasn't a blood soaked book for the sake of gruesomeness.  There is a story here that started long before the Reeves boys had their first bouts of teenage acne that had been simmering for years on a low peep and John Reeves had decided to come back to Clarksbridge at precisely the time the simmering pot changed to an exploding pot of boiling hatred and revenge; revenge to be visited upon the sons of the fathers and anyone who was close to them.  John finds himself being framed, his brother doesn't believe he is capable of the things that have happened, even although he dislike his brother, so defends him.  More incontrovertible evidence starts to pile up and Alan begins to have doubts, coming  c;lose to shooting his own brother: Can the brothers differences be put aside ...  A big ask, or are they going to end up dead too...

I did start of being fairly critical of MacGowan's first book and then it won me round.  This one gripped from the beginning with the psychological twists presented to good effect, can you really make a person burst into flames (no that doesn't happen in this book, but you will see why I mention it, on reading it) through the power of suggestion, can you cure criminals and paedophiles with psychology alone, who knows what we are capable of but clearly MacGowan has an inkling towards these kind of questions from his own degree in psychology and uses the 'power of the mind' in a frightening way and to good effect in this book. Some of the story drifted, just a little, in the middle, but overall I found it absorbing and hard to put down.  I started looking at it last week but got so tied up with the Olympics I put it down having read the first 6 chapters.  I picked it up on Monday and finished it on Tuesday, all 27 remaining chapters......

Was John Reeves worth resurrecting, I asked early on, yes, I think he was.  Even although a lot of the book actually features Alan, his brother and the Clarksbridge Police Dept.,  and John who was not the first intended target of the hate and revenge, becomes the tortured soul, in more ways than one, and who needs to be rescued.  MacGowan, after only one book has uncluttered his mind and got down to some serious writing, there are no really slow patches in this as there was in TFOBH. He has given us a hero who is handy with a Glock and a mean punch, but who also has vulnerabilities, and who sometimes needs other heroes to rescue the situation to save him.

Finally, The Cover; It is a bleak looking thing, Black, White and Grey with a splash of colour, but so perfect for this book, it so encapsulates the novel and describes items from it that will become apparent to the reader as the story unfolds, 10 out of 10 to ethinkgraphics who clearly paid attention to the book when coming up with the design.

You can follow Kirkus on Twitter @KirkusMacGowan or connect with him on his blog at http://www.kirkusmacgowan.info/

Editing for Kindle /iPad: This was a draft copy so can't really comment
Reading Enjoyment: 5 out of 5
Page length on kindle /iPad: Not known but was a substantial read
Plot: 5 out of 5
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


  1. Nice review, Tom. I enjoyed TFOBH for some of the very reasons you didn't. Must be the Irish in me.

  2. Thanks Tim, just call it as I see it .. TFOBH was good, I just thought the beginning was a bit to slow, but as I said it did warm up....

    The Valley Walker is in my TBR pile

  3. Great review. I do have to get this book when it's released.

  4. Jules, Yes Kirkus just needed to find his feet with the first one and then crack on and get a good second one out and he has done it with WRATH

  5. This new book 'WRATH" by Kirkus MacGowan promises to be a best seller if only he can get the word out. I'm trying to do my part. Having read the first chapter I am eagerly awaiting more. MacGowan has mastered the hook and created a way to make readers hunger for more. It may be a challange getting this book out to readers, but they won't be disappointed once they delve inside it's covers.

  6. Chrissy, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Having been lucky to have Kirkus send me an advance copy, I agree, it will do well for him. Hopefully my little review will help and so far, you and 95 others have looked at this, so here's hoping for him...

    stop by any time and feel free to comment on anything you read.


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