A Dark Redemption (Carrigan and Miller 1) by Stav Sherez

a dark redemptionStrong start to the series…

😀 😀 😀 😀

Three young men take off to Uganda for one last adventure holiday before they put their student days behind them and venture into the world of work. But Uganda is in the grip of civil unrest, with gangs of rebel soldiers, many of them children, making the country a dangerous place for Ugandans and visitors alike. Jack, Ben and David are horrified by some of the things they see and, when they get lost and are stopped at a rebel roadblock, they realise they’re in serious trouble.

Years later in the present, Jack Carrigan is a detective in the Met, tasked to investigate a horrific murder of a Ugandan student living in London. Still haunted by his own experiences in Uganda, Carrigan is reluctant to consider a possible political motive and tries to convince himself this is a straightforward sex crime. But his new partner, Geneva Miller, isn’t so sure – the girl had been researching one of the worst of the rebel groups and there are features of the murder that make Miller think there’s a connection.

Anyone who reads my reviews will know that I am excessively tired of current trends and clichés in modern crime novels, so let’s speed quickly by them. Carrigan is typically angst-ridden – in fact, so is Miller, to a lesser degree. Miller drinks too much. Each detective has a quirk – Carrigan, a coffee addiction with every cup described; and Miller, a rash brought on by stress, and this is kind of a stressful case, so she scratches. Constantly. (However, I’ve actually previously read Eleven Days, the second in the series, in which Carrigan seems to have got his coffee addiction under control and someone must have told Miller about antihistamines, so it’s good to know that these annoying traits disappear.) The book is unnecessarily gory – the murder methods are brutal and sickening in the extreme and told in far too much detail, enhanced by some added gruesomeness in the autopsy room. And vomiting. (No-one ever vomited in crime fiction prior to about 1990 – now they all do it. Or urinate/defecate with fear. What has happened to the human race? Can I really be the only person who doesn’t want to read about people losing control of their bodily functions? Harrow my soul, dear authors, not my stomach…)

Now for the positives. Sherez writes very well – way above average standard in contemporary crime writing. He has clearly done his research on the situation in Uganda thoroughly and that whole element of the book is completely convincing, adding a considerable amount of depth to what would otherwise be a fairly standard police procedural. The prologue, with the three students in Uganda, is very well done, building a great atmosphere of tension in a few pages and making the reader immediately care about the outcome. Although we are only taken back to Uganda occasionally throughout the book, this strand is the one that held my interest most and felt most authentic.

Both Carrigan and Miller are well-drawn characters, likeable despite their angst and quirkiness, and with plenty of room for future development. Carrigan is still mourning the death of his wife, and Miller’s marriage has just broken up, but neither of these elements is allowed to dominate the story. This is the first time Carrigan and Miller have worked together, and we see them developing a respect for each other that looks like it may in time blossom into friendship, or perhaps more. There’s a lot of office politics going on – too much for my taste – but it’s well done, even if there are parts of it which don’t quite come over as believable.

Stav Sherez
Stav Sherez

The main plot and investigation elements are interesting and convincingly written. The detectives play within the rules for the most part except, of course, for the obligatory police-officer-beats-up-suspect scenario. The writing slips a little when it goes into dialogue, with people expressing themselves with an eloquence that doesn’t ring true to their characters. Unfortunately the ending does the usual thing of throwing credibility away in order to achieve a dramatic dénouement.

I know I’ve been critical of several things in the book, but partly that’s down to my personal taste, and partly the preponderance of well-worn clichés is the kind of thing that often happens in the first of a series – sadly, may even be necessary for a first book to find a publisher in these days when what they seem to want is for every book to be identical to the last best-seller. Overall, I like Sherez’s writing style very much, though I do wish he would tone down the gore. The characterisation is very good, especially of the two central characters. And, as in Eleven Days, the quality of research shines through, with the secondary story providing a strong backdrop for the main action. Recommended, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the series develops in future.

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61 thoughts on “A Dark Redemption (Carrigan and Miller 1) by Stav Sherez

  1. This sounds quite tempting. I am sort of in the mood for something overtly graphic and could even overlook those irritating – beating-up-suspect and drink problem cliches. The Uganda connection sounds interesting, too. The scratching and coffee obsession sound to be a bit contrived to me – trying too hard to give the characters interesting quirks. All in all, though – I am certainly interested!

    • Yes, I was glad he dropped the quirks for book 2 – it gets a bit tedious. But definitely both books are well worth reading – the Ugandan sections in this one were excellent and in the second one, if memory serves me right, the story involved some kind of gang thing in Peru… plus dead nuns!!!

        • Hahaha!!! Lots of them too! But seriously, I do think you might enjoy these – he’s a very good writer, and most of what I criticise in him is more to do with my tastes than his books. Enjoy! 😀

  2. Oh that sounds like a perfect adventure to have. Did they join a rebellion or something? Still, I’m not sure I’d go there, you know.

    Geneva is a funny name. Isn’t that a city?

    I suppose the fellow was trying to make everything more realistic. Look at his hair, for instance.

    • It was a horrible adventure! I’m sorry, but I won’t allow you to go to Uganda, and that’s that! *folds arms*

      Yes, on both counts! I can’t remember if he explained why she was called it. I’m so glad my parents didn’t call me Glasgow… though Pittsburgh Duke has a nice ring to it…

      *utterly refuses to laugh* Don’t you dare, sir…!!!

      • But why not? I might be able to nab some cool stuff and I’ll be semi fine. I’m sure of it. *nods enthusiastically*

        Well, it’s actually Vancouver Jamaican Duke, if you must know. That’s why I use initials, see. What’s your middle name?

        You’re talking to him, aren’t you?

        • Nope! I’ve decided! I’m not willing to risk it – what would I do for entertainment if they captured you?

          Ooh, that’s quite cool actually, Van! My real one? Well… but what’s yours??

          *laughs* I have taken a vow of silence…

          • Well, you’d have to come rescue me! Fight through the wilderness, the wild beasts, and masked bandits. That sort of thing. You’d be brilliant. *nods* That’d be fun, you must admit.

            Isn’t it? Please remember it for me, or I’ll forget. Joseph! But didn’t you know that?

            Me too, the sudden. But…

            • Hmm… that does sound rather enticing. But there might be insects!! I shall have to develop an anti-moth strategy first… perhaps I could disguise myself as a giant mothball… *muses*

              I shall! No, I didn’t! Does this mean you have a coat of many colours? #cool Mine is Nevin – odd, isn’t it? There’s an old tradition in Scotland of having a surname as a middle name rather than another first name… so that was my aunt’s surname.

              *laughs* Bet you can’t keep it!

            • *laughs* Make sure to take a selfie if you do. But I doubt they have moths down there. Maybe a few snakes and other horned beasts, tho.

              Haha. Yes, and that my dad is Jacob and that my bros all hate me. And that I was thrown in a pit. And that I’m now second to Pharaoh only in Egypt! Wow, goes to show you how fast one can get power. *sits on thrown and gets fanned by the wenches* No! That’s so coooooool! I’ve never heard the name before. I dig it. *nods*

              Never. I’m horrible like that.

            • I reckon I could cope with snakes better than moths…

              Goodness! I’ve actually read all that bit! Aren’t you impressed? But… doesn’t that make Leah your step-mother??? I don’t like this idea one little bit, you know, you know… *laughs* Wenches??? Ooh, the feminists are going to have so much fun when they catch you…

  3. I rather enjoyed this one – was blown away by the writing, and have certainly looked out for other books by Stav Sherez. I rather liked the poetic mother (a very minor character but an interesting one, especially knowing that Stav also writes poetry- but doesn’t publish it). And my favourite parts were also the parts relating to Uganda.

    • Yes, his writing is great and I think I preferred the plot of this one to Eleven Days, though I liked the characterisation more in it. I enjoy the way he weaves a complicated international strand into the police procedural format – it makes them different from the usual style, and he clearly does his research thoroughly. Definitely a series I’ll be looking out for…

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more, FictionFan, about too much emphasis on bodily functions. It’s one thing to suggest them; it’s another to share all of the details with readers. That said though, I’m glad you thought this was well-written. Certainly it addresses some important issues.

    • Yep, he’s certainly not alone in the bodily functions trend, but as someone who likes to read while I eat, it all gets a bit much!! I do think the quality of his writing and research is great though, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how the series develops…

  5. I wonder why there’s a sudden increase in bodily functions. I am also irked by character traits that are over-emphasized. To me, it feels like the writer is saying they don’t trust me to remember these elements. I can see the other side though… it’s more interesting to show a character constantly drinking coffee than to issue a blanket “they had a caffeine problem,” but it feels tedious to read if the writer can’t find clever ways to repeat details.

    Sometimes, I think it must be so much more fun to make films. You’d just need a nice mug and tell the film crew to keep it in frame. You could make it subtle and ever-present.

    Most importantly: Seeing that author photo reminds me that I need to clean my glasses.

    • Oh, I don’t know – I think it’s this urgent desire for realism in fiction. I’d rather the plots were credible and skip over the messy bodily functions bits. I guess when starting a new series it must be tempting to give your character some kind of quirk, especially in such a crowded market as the police procedural. But I do find it gets in the way – I become very conscious of every mention and it pulls me out of the story. I must admit I get just as irritated by it in films though. Or things like adaptations of Holmes or Poirot where the scriptwriters feel they have to mention the quirks 2000 times in each episode…

  6. Doesn’t sound like something I could get into, frankly. I realize we authors are told to make characters flawed, but harping on those flaws isn’t professional; we’re also told to show, not tell, but blow-by-blow accounts of bodily functions should be banned. There — I’ve vented, and I feel better for it! Thanks for reviewing this one so I don’t have to wade through it, ha!

    • Haha! A good vent is necessary from time to time! Yes, hes certainly not alone with quirky characters or bodily functions but I could live without them. Especially since I like to read while I eat…

      But despite my criticisms he is a very good writer – he just writes slightly more grittily than matches my taste.

  7. Hahaha! I never want to read about characters losing control of their bodily functions! “Harrow my soul, dear authors, not my stomach,” should be one of those writerly rules.This is the exact reason we never read about characters going to the bathroom (the loo around your parts 😉 ) on a regular basis. The assumption is, their bodies are fully functioning. And out of all the dastardly addictions out there, I hardly think caffeine qualifies (unless there is a heart arrhythmia). Furthermore, (which means I’m prattling on…) overly stated character traits seems like a novice writing tactic. Most people are not scratching, twirling their hair, biting their lip, reaching for a bottle of booze on a perpetual basis. And if they are, there’s probably a prescription out there for it (or rehab)! Nonetheless, it does sound like the author did his research and redeemed the story. We’re just vicious here in FF Land! Perfection is required!

    • Haha! I’m so glad it’s not just me! I read one a year or so ago where the “running joke” was that everyone in the police team had contracted a dose of stomach flu, so that between dribbling noses and dribbling… other things, I spent the entire book in a state of nausea. I think some things should be left unspoken! And as for character quirks – well, I know some of my favourites are quirky, like Holmes and Poirot, but somehow their quirks aren’t mentioned so often, and again scratching is such an unpleasant quirk. Every time she scratched, I scratched! Ha! I know – I’m such a mean reviewer! But I can’t help it – that must be my character quirk… 😉 And after all that, I still think it’s a very good book!

  8. Dead nuns!!!!!!! I’m not good with gore – in the end it’s sort of numbing or preposterous although having said that I have written the odd …oh dear…memory delete, memory delete.

  9. Too much emphasis on bodily functions puts me off. Like you, I like to read while I eat. I used to give up the food if a book nauseated me – now I give up the book.
    Now, who wants to hear about my latest nose-bleed? Hay fever is such fun! 🙂

    • Yes, I pretty much stick to factual books while reading these days – otherwise you just never know the minute! Mind you, my current factual book is about poisoning, so that theory isn’t working out too well…

      Oh dear! Well, at least that must surely mean spring is on the way at last!

  10. Another excellent review and it’s good to see you are getting in training for your Bloody Scotland reads and being far more forgiving than normal of your pet hates – just to clarify though “Can I really be the only person who doesn’t want to read about people losing control of their bodily functions?” No and a resounding no at that – I thought I’d just missed all the pre 90s books that mentioned these – really, not necessary! I have at least one of this authors books lurking on my kindle but then I wasn’t too sure, having gone off the blood and gore a bit, he may have moved up a couple of notches now!

    • Hahaha! I’m getting rid of all my bile and bitterness now so I can be sweet and angelic when the books arrive! I wonder of my plan will work… 😉

      Yeah, I just can’t imagine that suddenly readers were begging authors “Oh, please, please put in some descriptions of vomit!” Mind you, I’m reading The Secret Poisoner at the moment so fiction books are beginning to look quite restrained…

      I think you might enjoy these – they are gorier than most but they’ve got good plots too, and both the detectives are likeable…

  11. One of the reasons I read so many different kinds of genres is because I tire of the clichés that litter genre books. Fantasy is my favorite genre, but there are so many derivative and unnecessary books that I read them sparingly, certainly far less than I used to when I was a teenager. I seek out the best, most intriguing, and refreshing takes on Fantasy stories. It may take weeks or months for me to discover my next favorite Fantasy book, but I can easily fall back on one of the several other genres I enjoy reading.

    For whatever reason, I don’t read much Crime novels, so I probably wouldn’t see a clichéd crime novel as clichéd!

    • Me too – I need variety. I get bored with any style if I read too much of it, and that’s partly the problem I have with crime fiction at the moment – I read too many of them when I started with NetGalley and they all began to seem the same. You’re right, though – I wouldn’t notice a cliché in fantasy, or even sci-fi because I don’t read them often enough. So whenever I say something’s really fresh and original, I’m aware it might just be that I haven’t read 500 of the same kind of thing…

  12. This sounds like a great read! Oh, the gore…. some are necessary and some are not. And I’m with you on the losing control of the bodily functions issue, eek! That said, I’ll check out this book. 🙂

    • Definitely worth checking out – his writing and research is excellent. And yes, where to draw the line on gore is so subjective – it would be a bit odd to have a murder story with no gore at all – but these are just a bit more gory than I like! But the bodily functions – ugh! Never required!! 😉

  13. I guess it’s been a while since I read a mystery, since the last cliche I remember in the genre was prim little old ladies (thank you, Angela Lansbury). Might be fun to try it, especially since the author sounds like he did his homework.

    • Haha! That was a cliché I actually enjoyed! In fact, I have a Murder, She Wrote book on my TBR to relive old times. 😉 Yes, this is a good one, despite my criticisms… worth checking out!

  14. I’ll bet the author started with the coffee and scratching thing to give his characters attributes that stood out and were “unique.” Either enough letters came in expressing otherwise, or he got a better editor by book 2, from the sounds of it!

    In terms of gore, I’m with you, FictionFan. Lately, it’s been the worst with movies. I hate these nasty horror flicks –ESPECIALLY the remakes of marvelous classics into modern “torture porn.” I’ve gone old school and am using the full extent of my library card to rent terrifying old movies. If you’re interested, may I recommend House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price (1959), The Haunting (1963), and one that is quite terrifying that I just watched tonight for the first time, The Bad Seed (1956).

    • Lots of people did mention the quirks in reviews, so maybe he picked up on it from there, but I was glad they’d beeen toned down in book 2 whatever the reason.

      I much prefer psychological horror to gore – gore doesn’t frgihten me, it just disgusts me, and who wants to watch something that disgusts them?? I’ve seen The Haunting – that’s the one based on the Shirley Jackson book, isn’t it? I suspect I must have seen the Price one at some point too, but don’t remember it off the top of my head – I’ll look out for it and The Bad Seed. Thanks for the recs! 😀

      • Yes! The Haunting is based on the Shirley Jackson novel. Napoleon Split and I have been talking about it a lot lately. House on Haunted Hill is fantastic. There is a new version that I don’t mind, but the old one is very haunted house oriented. There are some funny parts that are meant to be scary, like this meme I see on the internet a lot: https://31.media.tumblr.com/bf9d5943c1caef310c23a5c40e9ebc18/tumblr_inline_ncqknxNfr11r4bcl2.gif
        It makes me giggle!

        I just wanted The Bad Seed. It was a book that was adapted into a play that was adapted into a movie. I found it pretty terrifying. The actors in the movie were the ones who did the play for 300+ showings, so they were really good at their roles, AND they were used to being a bit over the top for the stage, so the acting stands out in the film as being “louder” in a way that most movies during that time period. Really violent things happen, but it’s all off screen. You may hear something, or you only may find evidence of it, but WOW, it was really bold for the time.

  15. The Uganda aspect makes this sound intriguing and slightly different than so many European/North American mysteries. I’m with you when it comes to bodily functions. I know it happens but I don’t want to read about it. I absolutely hate when there’s vomiting in TV or movies. It doesn’t make me sick, I just think it’s gross and unnecessary 99.9% of the time.

    • Yes, both of his books have had interesting international aspects – the other was to do with the Shining Path movement in Peru. I know!! I hate that! And you can pretty much guarantee it’ll happen just as you’ve settled down with a nice piece of cake… ugh! 😉

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