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#TuesdayBookBlog A WOMAN OF VALOR by Gary Corbin (@garycorbin) A solid police-procedural with an inspiring female protagonist #RBRT

Hi all:

I repeat today with another book by an author I read last year.

Cover of A Woman of Valor
A Woman of Valor by Gary Corbin

A Woman of Valor by Gary Corbin.

In A Woman of Valor, Jack Reacher meets Tracy Crosswhite as #metoo victims find a heroine who will fight back for them – with a vengeance.

A rookie policewoman, who was molested as a young girl, pursues a serial child molester, and struggles to control the emotions his misdeeds awake in her.

Valorie Dawes carries a serious emotional scar from being molested in her youth by a family “friend,” a tragedy referred to by family members only as “The Incident.” Her namesake uncle, a well-known Clayton, CT police detective, learned of her ordeal only days before being gunned down in the line of duty. Resolving to continue in his footsteps, she becomes a Clayton policewoman at the age of 22.

But Val’s self-doubts emerge and multiply when she encounters bullying and chauvinism from many of the seasoned male cops in her department. Only her partner, Gil, manages to crack through her veneer of mistrust of men by showing patience, kindness, and confidence in her. Under Gil’s tutelage, Val shows promise as a talented, thoughtful, and quick-thinking street cop, earning praise from her superiors–and continued resistance from old-school line cops, jealous of her quick rise.

Despite Gil’s support, Val becomes increasingly isolated within the department and vilified in the public eye as reckless and incompetent. Complicating matters, a blogger, Paul Peterson, somehow gains inside knowledge about her and is quick to sensationalize her mistakes on his trashy “police-accountability” website.

One of Val’s early mistakes involves getting overpowered in a domestic abuse encounter with a serial child abuser, Richard Harkins, who proves to be both elusive and cruel. His escape haunts her and she spends an increasing amount of her time and energy trying to track him down before he strikes again and subjects any more young girls to the fate Val encountered in her own youth.

Can Valorie overcome the trauma she suffered as a child and stop Harkins from hurting others like her–or will her bottled-up anger lead her to take reckless risks that put the people she loves in greater danger?

https://www.amazon.com/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

https://www.amazon.es/Woman-Valor-Gary-Corbin-ebook/dp/B07R4G617Z/

Author Gary Corbin
Author Gary Corbin

About the author:

Gary Corbin is a writer, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. Lying in Judgment, his Amazon.com best-selling legal thriller, was selected as Bookworks.com “Book of the Week” for July 11-18, 2016, and was the feature novel on Literary Lightbox’s “Indie Spotlight” in February 2017. The long-awaited sequel to Lying in Judgment, Lying in Vengeance, was released in September, 2017.

Gary’s second novel, The Mountain Man’s Dog, came out in June 2016, kicking off the Mountain Man Mysteries series. The sequel, The Mountain Man’s Bride, was released Feb. 8, 2017. The third book in the series, The Mountain Man’s Badge, was just released in June, 2018.

All of these mysteries are available in hardcover, paperback, and ebook forms.

New: Lying in Judgment and Lying in Vengeance now available in audiobook format! The Mountain Man Mysteries will be available on video later in 2019.

Join Gary’s mailing list (http://garycorbinwriting.com/about-gary-corbin/contact/) and be the first to be notified of free preview editions, 99 cent specials, free book promotions, and exclusive content such as deleted chapters and early-draft excerpts of upcoming novels.

Gary’s plays have enjoyed critical acclaim and have enjoyed several productions in regional and community theaters. His writer’s reference, Write Better Right Now: A Dozen Mistakes Good Writers Make-And How to Fix Them, is available exclusively on Kindle.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, Northwest Editors Guild, 9 Bridges Writers Group, PDX Playwrights, the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and the Bar Noir Writers Workshop, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

A homebrewer and coffee roaster, Gary loves to ski, cook, and watch his beloved Red Sox and Patriots. He hopes to someday train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetheart.

Author’s website: http://garycorbinwriting.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garycorbin1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/garycorbin

https://www.amazon.com/Gary-Corbin/e/B01BT8SPLW/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I reviewed another one of this author’s books (The Mountain Man’s Badge, the third book in the Mountain Man’s Mysteries series, you can check my review here), enjoyed it and was pleased when I was given the chance to review this book, as I always feel slightly uneasy when I start reading a series in the middle, because I am aware that I am missing on the background and the development of the characters throughout the previous books, and my review will not be able to reflect that aspect of the story. Here, we have a stand-alone novel (after reading the book and getting to the end of it, it seems that there is a second novel with the same protagonist, Valorie Dawes, due for publication in the spring of 2020, so you won’t have to say goodbye forever to the characters if you get attached to them) and therefore we get an opportunity to meet the characters and become familiar with the setting from the start.

This novel combines the police procedural (a rookie policewoman following in the footsteps of her uncle, who was more of a father and hero figure for her than her own father, joins the local police force, learns the difference between the books and the streets, and tries to catch a criminal that brings back memories she’d rather forget) with subjects and themes more common in women’s fiction (the protagonist was sexually abused as a child and despite her best efforts is still affected by the experience; she has to confront plenty of prejudice and sexism in the police force, has a difficult relationship with her father, and can’t help compare herself to her best friend, who seems to have a much easier and happier life than hers). The author manages to make the mix of the two genres work well, providing plenty of details of how the local police force works that felt quite realistic (and the language and descriptions of the characters, narrated in the third-person —mostly from the point of view of the protagonist— seem straight out of a police report), and demonstrates a good insight into the mind-set of a young woman who has survived such trauma and finds herself confronted by sexist, abusive, and old-fashioned attitudes. (There are small fragments of the book told from some of the other characters’ point of view, also in the third-person, but those are brief, and other than giving us an outsider’s perspective on the main character, I didn’t feel they added much to the plot). Her fight to overcome her difficulties, to take other people into her confidence, and to make meaningful connections, is inspirational and will also feel familiar to readers of literary fiction or women’s fiction.

As mentioned in the description, this book feels, unfortunately, very current, not only because of the abuse (even if the story was originally developed well before #metoo shone some light into the scale of the problem), but also because of the prejudiced attitude of the police towards ethnic minorities (racial profiling is evident throughout the plot), and the way social media can spread falsehoods and fake news, ruining somebody’s reputation only to gain a bit of notoriety. There are plenty of action scenes, chases, and violence (although not extreme) but there are also the slow moments when we see the characters patrolling the streets, making connections with the local gang, or interacting with the locals, and that also felt more realistic than the non-stop frantic rhythm of some thrillers, that seem to never pause for characters to have some breathing space. It shows the work of the police in its various forms, not always running after criminals, but there are also the quiet moments (waiting around, doing research, manning the phones), and when there are actions scenes, these are also followed by consequences that some novels brush over (filling up forms, reporting to Internal Affairs and having a psychological evaluation after a lethal shooting). Although it is mostly set in a chronological order from the moment Val joins the police force, there are chapters where something makes her remember what happened ten years ago, and we get a flashback from her perspective as a 13 y. o. girl. These interludes are clearly marked in the book, and rather than causing confusion, help us understand what Val is going through and why she reacts as she does to her experiences. She is very closed off, she is insecure, finds it difficult to trust people, men in particular, and struggles to maintain her professionalism when confronted with certain types of criminals. There is much discussion in the book about different types of policemen (I’ll leave you to read about those yourself), and she fights hard to be deserving of her uncle’s memory.

The author is skilled at managing a large cast of diverse characters: Val’s friend, Beth; her father, who is on a slippery-slope of self-destruction; Gil, her partner, a sympathetic and likeable character; the other policemen in the team, including her superiors (more enlightened than most of the other men), the other women in the force (and there are wonderful scenes of sisterhood between the women), her brother, sister-in-law and her cute little niece (obsessed with becoming a policewoman like her aunt), the members of an African-American gang (who although tough and engaged in criminal activities, live by their own code of honour), a blogger with inside information who is happy to distort the truth… and of course, the nasty criminal, who has no redeeming features. Even those who play a small part are realistically portrayed and add to the atmosphere and the realism of the novel. This is not one of those books that take place in a city but feel as if only four or five people were living there. We see neighbours, the owners of businesses, and we also have a good sense of the connections between the local police force and the others in the same county and state.

On reading the author notes after the novel, I felt quite touched by the story behind it, and understood why it feels so personal, despite this being a novel with a main female character written by a male author. In the acknowledgements, the author thanks several members of law enforcement for their expertise and advice, which he has incorporated well into the novel, and the book contains a list of questions that should prove particularly useful for book clubs.

In my opinion, this is a novel that includes a solid plot, with a main bad character (who is truly bad) all readers will hate, some lesser unlikeable characters (the blogger, many of the other policemen Val comes across), some intrigue (who is feeding inside distorted information to the blogger?, what really happened to Val’s uncle?), a hint of romance (don’t worry, honestly. This is not a romantic novel), sympathetic characters easy to engage with and root for, even if we might have very little in common with them, particularly Val and Gil, and a more than satisfying ending.

As I said, I read an early ARC copy of the book, so there might be some minor changes in the final version. This is a book that contains some violence, shootings, and sexual abuse of young girls (and although not extremely explicit, I am aware this could be a trigger for some readers).

Thanks to Rosie and to all the members of her team, thanks to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it, remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep smiling!

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

Oh, and I’ll be away for a little while (until the end of August), in a place where I won’t have regular access to e-mail and/or internet. It is a break/holiday sort of. Well, you know what they say about a change being as good as a break, don’t you? I have left some reviews programmed, in case you need any extra reads for the holidays, and I won’t close the comments, but I’ll only be able to reply to them when I can connect. I just wanted to let you know so you don’t worry if you don’t hear from me or you don’t see me around as often as you’re used to. Have a lovely summer!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL by Sara Vaughan (@SVaughanAuthor) A great courtroom drama/psychological thriller that will keep you thinking #MeToo

Hi, all:

This is a book that I’d recommend to those of you who prefer non-seasonal reads this time of the year. The book kept me thinking, and I’ve decided to add a reflection that I did not think belonged in the review (I know my reviews are legendary for their length, but there have to be limits!) beforehand, that will give you a bit more background into some of my comments at the very end.

First I’ll share the cover. I don’t want to keep the mystery for too long….

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

The truth is a tricky issue. Rightly or wrongly, adversarial advocacy is not really an inquiry into the truth’…’Advocacy is about being more persuasive than your opponent… You can win even if the evidence is stacked against you provided that you argue better. And it’s all about winning, of course.’

This quote, early on in the book, belongs to Kate, who remembers something one of her teachers at Law School told her. This got me thinking and reminded me of something I knew but I learned more about when I studied Crimonology and the Criminal Justice System. (Yes, I have an MSc in Criminology, in case you’re wondering). There are different types of Criminal Justice Systems, and while the UK and the US have an adversarial system, as the quote mentions, other countries, like Spain, have an inquisitorial one, where the judge is supposed to gather evidence to establish the truth. (Although trial by jury is being introduced in some cases, the system is different in spirit, if nothing else). If you are curious about what that would look like, I recommend a fantastic Argentinian movie that won the Oscar to the best foreign movie a few years back (and I think was going to get an English language version, but please, stick to the original), El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes). This reflection is also relevant to my comment at the end of the review about a case that has horrified people in Spain and shows how important defining certain types of crimes (in this case sex crimes), and updating the law, can be. You might have heard of La manada and the case. If you haven’t, you can check here, but a word of warning, you are likely to get upset if not enraged.  https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/04/27/inenglish/1524824382_557525.html

And now, let’s resume our usual programme…

Here is the description of the book:

‘People are calling this the new Apple Tree Yard, but I’d beg to differ – fast, pacy and with enough twists and turns to keep you gripped right to the end, I’d argue its infinitely better’ The Pool
‘Well-written, pacy and full of twists and turns’  Independent
‘Gripping. A savage indictment of class, privilege and toxic masculinity in Britain … Almost impossible to put down’ Louise O’Neill
‘Deftly plotted … with an eerie relevance to the current debate surrounding the attitudes to and experiences of women in Westminster, Hollywood and beyond’ Laura Barnett
‘The best courtroom drama since Apple Tree Yard … sensational’ Clare Mackintosh

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it. 

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

‘A compulsive read with completely layered characters. Superb’ John Boyne
‘I love it when a book lives up the hype – and this one does. It is quite shockingly good’ Sun
‘This page-turning novel reveals the precarious nature of existence as the seemingly perfect lives of Sophie and her husband James unravel… The author anatomises in gripping fashion the inner workings of the corridors of power, as well as the hidden recesses of the mind and heart’ Anita Sethi, The Observer
‘This clever plot raises many issues of the moment” – Marcel Berlins, The Times
‘Once the trial of MP James Whitehouse starts, you could not have prised the book from hands for love or money’ Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express 
‘A plot that is so deftly constructed, you’ll feel as if you’re on a roller coaster wearing a blindfold. It’s an absolute masterpiece – prepare to be very impressed’ heat
‘A lot of reviews claim that a novel has them ‘hooked from the start’ – but with this story, it’s painfully true … The thorny issue of consent is tackled sensitively, while exploring the consequences of the case on both women and the past demons it exposes’ Grazia
‘One of the best books you’ll read this year’ Closer
‘Sarah Vaughan drip feeds revelations while exploring the power and privilege of political elite’ Good Housekeeping
‘Think last year’s drama Liar with a dash of Apple Tree Yard’ Sunday Mirror: Notebook
‘A timely thriller about marriage, but also about power, who wields it, and how that affects who we believe’ Stylist

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Anatomy-Scandal-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B071YS3ZZW/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anatomy-Scandal-bestseller-everyone-talking-ebook/dp/B071YS3ZZW/

Author Sarah Vaughan
Author Sarah Vaughan

About the author:

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. She spent eleven years at the Guardian as a news reporter, health correspondent, and political correspondent. She left to freelance and began writing fiction the week she turned forty. Her debut novel, The Art of Baking Blind, published by Hodder & Stoughton, St. Martin’s Press, and in seven other languages, was the result. The Farm at the Edge of the World was published in June 2016 and will be published in Germany and France. Sarah lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children.

https://www.amazon.com/Sarah-Vaughan/e/B00J07OBA4/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Simon & Schuster UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I got a copy of this book a while back, but I must confess it got buried under tonnes of other books at a time when there were many things on my mind. I kept seeing the book here and there but wasn’t even sure I had a copy any longer. Eventually, as it always happens at the end of the year, I saw a list with recommended reads for the year that ends, with this novel featured prominently, and it was the push I needed to start reading it. I apologise for the delay because it was well worth a read.

The book opens up the 2nd of December 2016, is set in the UK, and is mostly narrated chronologically by a collection of characters. Kate, a QC (the prosecution lawyer in other countries) working in London tells of her experience in court, prosecuting sexual crimes, in the first person. The rest of the characters’ perspectives we get are narrated on the third person, and include those of Ali, a friend Kate met while she was a college student; Sophie, the wife of a junior conservative minister, James, and now stay at home Mum; James himself, the only male account, an upper-class man who always knew his future was golden, and Holly, whose narration starts in 1992, in Oxford. She is a fish out of the water, a young girl from the North, from a modest family, who has managed to get into an Oxford College to study English with a grant, and she suffers a cultural shock at first, although later things seem to look up until… (No spoilers here). It takes a while for all the strands of the story to fit together, although we soon realise there are some coincidences, and some of the people whose narrations appeared disconnected at first, had crossed paths years back.

The author, who as a political journalist has more insight than most people into what goes on in political office and in the government, provides a detailed and totally immersing account of the life of privilege of those who seem destined for “better things” from the very start, and creates very credible and nuanced characters. Vaughan is skilled at describing the atmosphere of the government corridors and of the Old Bailey, and as skilled at shining a light on the characters and their motivations. We have those who feel entitled to everything; characters who keep lying to themselves because they feel they got what they wanted and should now be happy with it, even if it has turned out to be far less ideal than they had always thought; the survivors who reinvented themselves and paid the price of never being completely at ease in their skins, and we have big areas of grey. (I think this book would be ideal for a book club, as there is much to discuss and plenty of controversial topics to keep the conversation going). What is a relationship and what is not? What is love and what is only lust? And central to the whole book, a big question, what is consent? Is it a matter of opinion? Although the definition of the crime seems very clear, when it comes to what people think or “know” in their heads at the time, is anything but.

Although the book is told from different perspectives, it is not confusing to read. Each chapter is headed by the name of the character and the date, and we soon get to know who is who, because their narration and their personalities are very different. That does not mean there aren’t plenty of surprises in the book, and although some we might suspect or expect, the story is well paced, the revelations are drip-fed and make the tension increase, and with the exception of one of the characters (hopefully!), it is not difficult to empathise and share in the thoughts and the moral and ethical doubts of most of the characters. We might think we know better and we would do the right thing but determining what the right thing is can be tough in some cases. And we all compromise sometimes, although there are limits.

I have read some reviews complaining about the amount of detail in the book and they also say that it is slow and nothing much happens. The book is beautifully observed, and the way it explains the ins-and-outs of the trial feels realistic. Perhaps the problem is that we are used to books and movies where everything takes place at lightning speed, and there isn’t a moment to contemplate or observe what is truly happening, beyond the action. This is a thinking book, and there are not big action pieces; that much is true. I have mentioned there are surprises. Secrets are revealed as well, but they surface through digging into people’s memories, or getting them to recognise the truth, not with a gun or a punch. The way we connect with the characters and the layers upon layers of stories and emotions make for a gripping reading experience but not a light one. I have sometimes read books or watched movies that have such a frenzied pace that I always come out at the other end with the feeling that I’ve missed something, some gap or hole in the plot that I would be able to discover if only I were given some time to breathe and think, but that is not the case here. Even the turns of events you might not have expected are fully grounded and make perfect sense, both action-wise and according to the personality of the protagonists. No big flights of fancy here.

This is a book for those who love psychological thrillers, and courtroom dramas that go beyond the standard formula. Although it is a book with strong roots in England, the British Criminal Justice System and the country’s politics, it is so well-written that it will make readers from everywhere think and will inevitably bring to mind cases and well-known characters at a national and international level. Now that I live in Spain, I could not help but keep thinking about the infamous case of “La manada”, where definitions of sexual crimes have become a hot political potato, for very good reason. The debate that the #MeToo has generated should be kept alive, and anything that contributes to that is useful, and if it is a great book, all the better.

I know it is silly, but I was happy to discover that I had finished reading the book on exactly the same date when the book comes to an end, 7th of December 2018. I take that as a sign and look forward to reading many more books by the author.

Thanks to NetGalley and to Simon & Schuster UK for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, click, review and aober all, keep smiling!

 

 

 

 

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