Monday, January 09, 2017

Dust and Desire - Conrad Williams

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


Publisher: Titan Books

Copyright: Conrad Williams, 2015

ISBN: 978-1783295630

Format: Paperback, 368pp

Genre: Crime

Rating: 4/5

Summed up in a few words
Punishment. Loss. Grit. Desire. Payback.

First Impressions
Titan Books are consistently publishing epic books and I am so grateful that they are happy to send some my way for review. Thank you to Lydia for sending me the entire Joel Sorrell trilogy for review. Dust and Desire is the first book in a off-the-walls series that tortures Joel Sorrell to his very limits. I have not read any of Conrad Williams' books before but I am definitely a fan (although he is an punishing and unforgiving author). This is heavy duty British crime/noir fiction that does not let up until the very end, I certainly enjoyed Dust and Desire and the other instalments but I need to recuperate now with some upbeat, happy and fun books for a while.  

Book Synopsis
An extraordinary killer has arrived in London, hell-bent on destruction.

Joel Sorrell, a bruised, bad-mouthed PI , is a sucker for missing persons cases. And not just because he's searching for his daughter, who vanished five years after his wife was murdered. Joel feels a kinship with the desperate and the damned. He feels, somehow, responsible. So when the mysterious Kara Geenan begs him to find her missing brother, Joel agrees. Then an attempt is made on his life, and Kara vanishes... A viscous serial killer is on the hunt, and as those close to Joel are sucked into his nightmare, he suspects that answers may lie in his own hellish past. 

My Thoughts
Conrad Williams is a master of crafting complex characters (with so much depth and backstory) and brutal, punishing plot design. Joel Sorrell is damaged beyond all repair, during a brief stint in the police force, Joel's wife is savagely murdered. Rebecca's death causes a rift to form between Joel and his daughter Sarah that festers until Sarah (aged 13) cannot stand it anymore and runs away. Dust and Desire is set several years from this point, Joel has become a private investigator, he is constantly searching for Sarah while picking up work where ever he can. 

Even after Joel's relentless punishment, he still retains the grit, aggression and attitude necessary in his line of work. After being recruited to investigate a missing person, Joel finds himself facing multiple murder attempts. The case quickly goes cold and Joel starts to unravel a bigger scheme that has been brewing for nearly 2 decades. CW's writing style consists of a blend of harshness, humour and humanity. 

Joel Sorrell is probably my favourite protagonist of 2016, he is so complex, walking the tightrope between insanity and family instinct. CW consistently develops Joel, putting him through so much without ever letting up. I spent so much time with Joel, feeling his pain, fury and desperation to find Sarah, constantly deflecting strike after strike. Luckily Joel has a quality bunch of associates he can lean on, and one not so helpful in the form of Ian Mawker. Their anti-friendship kept me entertained throughout the grimmer parts of this book, forever antagonising each other and fighting over leads.

I will quickly mention the villain that CW has expertly forged throughout the duration of the book. Wire or The Four-Year Old is the hellion in Dust and Desire, I was certainly impressed at the length that CW went to involve and develop him over the course of the plot, but I am not really a fan of the whole 'bad guy in the shadows' concept so I was not overly keen on the ending after all the hard work put in to make him an impressive adversary.

Dust and Desire is a tough book, not for the faint hearted. I recommend this book to those who enjoy the rougher side of the crime genre and are readers who can happily invest themselves in a series of books. Grating and caustic themes with an atmosphere that change at any moment makes Dust and Desire so unpredictable and that is what I most enjoyed about it. CW is not overly descriptive or obvious, changing the pace and the tone of a scenario on the spot whenever it suites him. 

I am keen to continue on with the Joel Sorrell story, though I have a feeling that it won't get any easier to digest anytime soon. CW is predominately a horror writer and it definitely bleeds through onto the pages of Dust and Desire. Check it out and tell me what you think!! Thank you for reading this review and I will be reviewing part two 'Sonata of the Dead' very soon.

Pick up Dust and Desire here: Amazon UK/Amazon US/Goodreads #

About the Author: Conrad Williams is the author of nine novels, four novellas and a collection of short stories. One was the winner of the August Derleth award for Best Novel (British Fantasy Awards 2010) while The Unblemished won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Novel in 2007 (he beat the shortlisted Stephen King on both occasions). He won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer in 1993, and another British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (The Scalding Rooms) in 2008.  His first crime novel, and the first Joel Sorrell thriller, Dust and Desire , was published in 2015, with Sonata of the Dead following in 2016. He lives in Manchester.

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