As part of his regular street performance, a deception specialist who goes by the name The Raven picks his audience’s pockets while they watch. It’s harmless fun–until he decides to keep the spare wallet a city councilman doesn’t seem to miss, hoping for a few extra bucks. When he finds not money but compromising photos of the councilman and his “personal assistants,” The Raven hatches a plan to blackmail the man. However, he quickly finds himself in over his head with the Ukrainian Mafia and mired in a life-threatening plot code-named, “Nevermore.”
Private investigators Trudi Coffey and Samuel Hill must scramble to sort out the clues–and their complicated feelings for each other–to rescue The Raven and save hundreds of lives from a wildcard bent on revenge.
Mike Nappa snags readers from the first page of this fast-paced thriller–and he never lets go until the end.
First things first: I think I’m in love.
It’s not often that a beautiful woman just walks into your dumpster-decorated apartment and acts like she belongs there. It’s even rarer for that beautiful woman not to run screaming the minute she sees a bunch of mobsters beating you into a bloody pulp in the kitchen.
“Well,” My Future Wife says, “looks like The Raven’s having a party and he forgot to invite me.”
Nice. She knows who I am. I try not to cough blood when I smile at her.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Raven,” she continues casually. “You don’t look good.”
I shrug, but I can’t stop smiling. I can’t keep my eyes off her, either.
“Weren’t you that main girl in the ‘Ant-Man’ movie?” I say to her.
I think it’s a pretty good line for the spur of the moment – I mean, who wouldn’t be flattered by a comparison to the beautiful actress Evangeline Lilly? She just rolls her eyes, though, and I think she might have said a bad word in her head. Even Scholarship, over by the refrigerator, snorts at how lame that came out. She doesn’t acknowledge the compliment and instead turns her attention to Viktor, standing behind me.
“You can’t be in here, lady.” It’s Pavlo again, whining from the living room. I’m almost gleeful at the fact that she ignores him completely. Instead, she speaks to Viktor.
“Seems like it’s about time for this party to break up, don’t you think?”
Is she threatening him? Is she actually daring him to threaten her?
Pavlo makes a move behind her and, faster than I would’ve imagined possible, she reaches into the back waistband of her jeans and produces some kind of small handgun. Everybody freezes, and I feel like applauding. It’s like I’m watching a really cool western unspool in 3D right in my kitchen. I suddenly crave a large bag of buttery, salty popcorn.
Now she’s turning to face Pavlo, slow, deliberate, like he barely deserves her attention.
“I think you’d be wise to step away from me,” she says to him. Her voice is even and deadly. Then she puts up a lazy smile. “My therapist tells me I’m a little neurotic about my personal space.”
“Uh . . .”
Pavlo doesn’t know what to do. He looks to Viktor for guidance. I peek back at the boss man and he’s mirroring My Future Wife’s tight grin, but he doesn’t say anything.
Now the girl is giving Pavlo an exaggerated appraisal, looking him up and down like he’s a used car and she’s trying to decide whether it’s worth the hassle to kick the tires. She relaxes visibly.
“You know,” she says to him, “I don’t think I’m even going to need this, after all.”
She turns her back completely to Pavlo and looks Viktor dead in the eye. She carefully lays the pistol on the table in front of me. “Want to tell your baby brother to back away,” she says, “before I break parts of him?”
Holy cow, did that just happen? I am so going to marry this girl and have lots of babies who grow up to be just like her.
“Uh, what-” I think Pavlo is about to wet his pants.
There’s a stale moment of silence before Viktor finally comes out of his coma. “You heard the lady, Cousin,” he says. “Party’s over.”
What a cracker of a read! Mike Nappa definitely knows how to spin a good yarn, not to mention create unique and complex characters. This book is full of them, but only three provide their point-of-view: The Raven, Bliss Monroe (Mama Bliss), and Trudi Coffey.
The Raven is such complex character! He’s very entertaining – quite droll, even in some of his most dire moments – but also a bit of a lost boy, with a story that provided some surprisingly deep and poignant moments in the novel. In fact, there were a few times I got a little watery-eyed on his behalf, one of which was an incredibly powerful and well-written scene. It was impossible not to like him, as most of the characters in this novel discovered at some point (even his ‘enemies’), but neither is he without his faults. I mean, for starters, he’s a ‘deception specialist’…
Then there’s Mama Bliss – or Mama, as she is often known: a seventy-one year old diabetic who mostly gets around in a wheelchair. She owns Sister Bliss’s Secret Stash, a ten-thousand-square-foot superstore of unique and unusual items imported from all over the world: Movie memorabilia, stage costumes, antiques, first editions, one-of-a-kinds, and anything out of the ordinary. But there’s more going on behind those doors than most people realise, and like The Raven, she also has a tragic story to tell.
Trudi Coffey is the PI who works at Coffey & Hill, the firm she and her now-ex-husband, Samuel Hill, began. Now there’s a complicated relationship! They were, of course, introduced in Annabel Lee, but even if you haven’t read that novel, you’ll pick up enough of their story in this one that you won’t be lost. I have to say, I didn’t find Trudi’s attitude as grating as I did in the previous one; although I’m still not fond of her constantly referring to Samuel as ‘my ex-husband’ (which seems to have taken the place of his name even in her thoughts). Maybe I’m just getting more of a handle on her personality, but I think she’s also softening a little.
Now, as for the plot. Phwooaaaarrrrrrr! Like I said, Mike Nappa knows how to tell a ripping yarn. He hooked me from the beginning with an opening scene that ends up being a glimpse at the novel’s climax – the type of glimpse that has you on the edge of your seat, but manages to avoid giving any spoilers. We learn that “Nevermore” is imminent and it’s about to get really messy–
And then we jump back in time four weeks and the story begins.
There is nothing predictable about this story, but it unfolds in a way that has you piecing the big picture together as you go along. Once you do have the big picture, though, the tension continues to mount as you brace for the impact without having a clue how it’s all going to pan out.
It’s definitely a thriller, but I did think some of the narrative could have been more concise at times. That was the one thing that occasionally slowed things down for me, but I still have no hesitation in giving this one five stars.
Oh, and while this is not a cliff-hanger (everything from this story is resolved) be prepared for an ending that will leave you itching for the next in the series…
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 6 September 2016
Publisher: Revell Books
Author’s website: http://www.nappaland.com/Literary/default.html
Previous book in series (clicking on cover will take you to Amazon listing):
Read my review for Annabel Lee