Friday, January 06, 2017

Cracked - Barbra Leslie

Sent to me by the Publisher in exchange for an honest review


Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Barbra Leslie, 2015

ISBN: 978-1783296989

Format: Paperback, 379pp

Genre:  Thriller, Humour

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Relentless. Amusing. Brutal. Whimsical. Fury.


First Impressions
I have been receiving some amazing books from Titan Books this year and Cracked is no exception. Thank you to Philippa at Titan for send me this review copy, as well as the sequel Rehab Run. I admire thrillers that juggle difficult themes and humour at the same time, Cracked does just this and Barbra Leslie did a exceptional job! Danny Cleary has a chaotic and tragic life that is coated in a witty and bold veneer, Danny is a time-bomb waiting to go off. But when tragedy strikes, it is her that needs to be the responsible one and kick some butt. A superb cast of characters, including the most well rounded villain I have seen in a book this year, and a plot that kept me invested and eager to spend time reading the sequel means that I definitely recommend this book to the readers of this post.

Book Synopsis
After her stormy marriage ends, Danny Cleary jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine - delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer. But when Danny's twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find her nephews - and the people who killed their sister. Fighting her addiction, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family.

Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption as Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find out who killed her twin.

My Thoughts
The once successful and out-going Danny Cleary, is now a recluse who is quite happy to spend the day with a crack pipe and her best friend Gene. Danny's life seemed to crumble away after she left her husband several years ago and using crack helped hide the fear, pain and regret. One day Danny is informed that her twin sister has been murdered and she can hide no longer, thrust back into her old world to find who did it and kill them herself. Joined by her younger brother Darren, they must find out what happened to Ginger, who is responsible for her death and make them pay dearly. 

I was concerned about reading a novel that was centred around drugs as I didn't know if it would work that well and be enjoyable or just be awkward and unpleasant. Once it became clear that the drugs were only a coping mechanism to mask all the past pain and tragedy that Danny had faced, I was able to settle in and have a good time with this book. Cracked uses the 'if I didn't laugh then I would cry' style, Danny is all front and bravado, using humour to keep everyone's minds (especially hers) off of the negativity around them. Underneath though is a whole world of hurt and it regularly comes up to the surface to overwhelm Danny.

Danny comes out of hiding to find her sister's killers. Danny's brother Darren is along for the ride and they make a pretty decent duo. Danny is the star player in Cracked and I am so glad that Leslie got her character spot on as this book would have suffered if Danny had not been such a quality character. A strong lead character surrounded by a cast of hit and miss secondary characters is what you get here, but I have to say, the villain in Cracked is one of my favourite baddies I have read all year. I am not going to ruin it for anyone, but they are complex, truly evil and their reach is almost unlimited.

In terms of plot and development, Leslie did a great job, Danny didn't necessarily evolve through the book but she did change for the better. The plot was steady, taking Danny to hell and back to find the answers she needs to catch up with the killers. Danny is haunted by her sister at times and it makes for several unusual encounters and experiences. The sisters were always connected throughout their lives and it seems to continue to a certain degree in the after life as Ginger acts like a guardian angel.

There is heavy drug use scattered around this book so it may not sit well with everyone, also other tough themes include mental health and kidnapping. There are upbeat and pleasant themes and tones included such as humour, family reunion and overcoming addiction to even out the score. Danny faces a lot of violence and pain in the form of gangstas, drug dealers, police officers and individuals with hidden agendas or identities. Plenty of action, plot twists and meaningful character interactions make this book lively, entertaining and heart-breaking.

Overall, I am looking forward to reading the sequel Rehab Run, it was an experience putting myself in Danny's shoes and following her on her quest to avenge family and reconnect with those she has lost in the recent years. There is a lot of humour to mask the crippling dysfunction under the surface and Barbra Leslie has got a lot more in store for us for the upcoming coming sequels.

Pick up Cracked here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads 

About the Author: Barbra Leslie lives and writes in Toronto. Visit her at www.barbraleslie.com or follow her on Twitter @barbrajleslie


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