Some books drag in the reader and just do not let them go. These are the 5-star books, books that readers don't just read, they sink into the world that the author has created.
Debbie Bennett released the first of her trilogy just recently. I would have had to have been one of the first to buy the ebook. I'd already read 'Hamelin's Child' and ' Paying the Piper,' and now there was 'Calling the Tune.'
It was enthralling, and I wanted to go back and read it straightaway again. But I restrained myself. These are books I will want to read again and again - not as ebooks, which for me, is always a second rate experience, but as real books. So now I have in my collection the three paperbacks.
The first, 'Hamelin's Child.'
Now he’s Mikey and he works for Joss. With streaked blond hair and a cute smile, he sleeps by day and services clients at night. Sometimes he remembers his old life, but with what he’s become now, he knows there is no return to his comfortable middle-class background.
Then he makes a friend in Lee. A child of the streets, Lee demands more from friendship than Mikey is prepared to give. But the police are closing in on them now and Mikey’s not sure anymore who he really is – streetwise Mikey or plain Michael Redford.
Hamelin’s Child was long-listed in the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. A thriller set in the seedy world of London's drug rings, this book contains strong scenes and adult material.'
A typical review:
I've just finished reading this book, but I know it's a story that is going to stay with me for a long time to come. I've read it in 4 sittings over 4 days, and from the moment I started it, its main character has rarely been out of my thoughts - even when I've been asleep. It really is that good.
Michael is a regular teenager with regular teenager troubles, until he has his drink spiked in a club by Eddie, and he is manipulated into going back to Eddie's London flat. And so for Michael, begins his unwanted and horrific transition into the seedy under-world of heroin addiction, prostitution, violence and exploitation. It's harrowing. It's heart-stopping on more than one occasion, and it's compelling. I feel like I know Michael; he's so real, and I've wanted to cry for him, rescue him, and protect him. I've also wanted to shake him - as he's so real, some of his choices have left me seething with frustration.
This author knows her stuff. It's in the detail, the descriptions, the language. It all just combines to create a world that although alien to me at first, quickly became alive and real, and incredibly disturbing.
I would recommend this book unreservedly. You will learn something, you will be shocked, you might cry - but you won't be able to put it down. A book about something that really happens and really matters, and although it might not be pleasant for its readers in places, we kneed to know - and this author tells it like it is.
The second, 'Paying the Piper.'
is piecing his life back together after his time spent as a rent boy. But it's
hard and although he's been clean of drugs for months, the nightmares are still
too real and he can't come to terms with Lee's death and Eddie's impending
Sometimes other people's troubles can seem easier to deal with. When Michael meets Amanda at the cashpoint, it's a chance to focus on someone other than himself, and finding Amanda's missing husband and baby may just be his salvation.
But the shadows of his past won't let him go. The bank account they've set up for him is full of easy cash and Eddie's old boss Carl can help Amanda. And suddenly Michael is in deeper than he ever imagined possible.'
We pick up the story with Michael in post-traumatic limbo following on from the repercussions of the sex trafficking ring and his imminent trial. By chance he meets Amanda, and their problems become almost one as he endeavors to help her track down her missing child with the help of dirty money. But the shadows of his past close in on him and Michael finds himself trapped, drugged and kidnapped, and sold on!
The story is about Amanda too, who finds herself implicated in the drugs ring. Brilliant characters and the plotting is tense and tight and builds to a dramatic climax.
And I know it's wrong, but I kind of fancied Lenny.
The third: Calling the Tune.
But running away never solved a problem. Michael realises he has to face his demons head-on if he's ever going to be able to move on with his life - and now he's on a collision course with his worst nightmare.
Following on from Hamelin's Child and Paying the Piper, this novel contains adult material.'
The villains are human and credible as is the whole cast, and the scenarios are expertly set up to hold the reader on the edge of his seat.
Although adult and graphic the content is never gratuitous; you will be shocked but not offended. Neither are you whipped into outrage; instead you become involved in Michael's tribulations, willing him to emerge unscathed from the twilight world - a measure of the quality of the writing.
Tip: read the trilogy from the beginning.
It raises some questions, as well. It's made me think.
There are times when Michael acts stupidly. He is far from the swashbuckling hero of the traditional thriller. Even when he tries to 'call the tune,' it's so, so far from the best way to do it. Only at the very last does he make the decisive action that enables him to finally win through.
There is also the issue of the confusion between the goodies and baddies. DJ Bennett has a far more sophisticated way of looking at it than most of us, maybe because of her background in the police force. That the baddies are people as well, never all bad (except for the really bad guy, he is evil.) But in all the series, there are characters that are on the 'bad' side, and yet act in a good way, Lennie, for instance, who works very hard to free Michael, even at the risk of his own life.
I drew the line at Nick being a good guy underneath it all, though. Nick is in the third book, and he helps Michael and he helps Lennie and Becky. He says that Michael was different, not some nameless street kid. But he was working for Reilly, who made snuff movies! Street kid, crackhead, whatever, it is evil to derive enjoyment from their murder. I would put Nick firmly behind bars as well as anyone else who worked for that villain.
To buy the ebooks, you can go to any of a dozen sites, including the biggest - Amazon.com.
To buy the paperbacks, and especially if you live in a country where you usually pay an additional $10 for a book to be sent, use the Book Depository,