Westside by W.M. Akers

Posted On 23 May 2019

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WestsideAs soon as I saw Westside I had to have it – put simply, it called out to me – mystery, history, fantasy, all rolled into one.  Hell yes.  And, within the first few pages it had captured my imagination. I was hooked, and in a nutshell I just adored it.  The writing was superb and I fell in love with the main character.  A debut, a standalone novel and an author that I will definitely keep an eye on.

Westside is a fascinating and dangerous place to live.  Here we hark back to New York during the 1920’s.  A time of prohibition, bootlegging and gangs except of course this is a different New York almost like a parallel universe or a place where at a certain point history took an alternate direction.  In this version a strange affliction seems to have overcome Westside.  Shadows take on a life of their own after the sun sets and people mysteriously disappear.   Things in fact deteriorated so badly at one point that a huge barrier was erected to try and prevent the ‘phenomena’ spreading to the more prosperous East.

As the story begins we meet Gilda Carr, a detective who specialises in tiny mysteries.  She’s been contacted by a Mrs Copeland, from the Eastside, who is missing a small, leather glove and is keen to have it recovered.  Gilda takes the case, expecting it to be fairly easy, little does she know that her life is going to be thrown into turmoil.  There is a much bigger mystery surrounding Westside and the darkness that permeates its streets and the mystery of the missing glove are all connected.

What I really loved first and foremost about Westside is the imagination.  Akers has taken a familiar setting and given it a whole new twist.  Whilst the Eastside is forging ahead into a modern age the darkness on the Westside seems to corrode and corrupt whatever it touches seemingly rolling back the years and giving the area a different feel from its more affluent neighbour.  Residents disappear, homes stand empty, modern inventions simply don’t work and yet the people who remain stubbornly cling to their homes, determined to remain in their own neighbourhoods even if their family, friends and belongings are simply vanishing around them.  Westside is a place where people don’t go out at night – and it’s not because they’re frightened of pickpockets or thugs – they’re scared of blinking out of existence.  What happens to them – where do they go – I was beyond intrigued.

There is also of course the mystery that takes on a life of its very own.  Starting as a small thing of very little consequence it grows unexpectedly into a riotous and sprawling mass that takes us down secret tunnels, uncovering coincidentals that twist the mystery even further – again, I was captivated.

On top of this there’s the ‘feel’ of the place.  Westside is dark and dangerous.  The characters who still live there are tough and violence and gangs are rife.  Law enforcement is practically non-existent and in fact the residents police themselves for the most part.  This is a place with a history that runs deep with grudges and secrets just waiting to be shared.  It also has a seedy underworld at its core that threatens violence and more often than not delivers.  This is a bloody story and no prisoners are taken so be warned.

Gilda is a great character.  Her father was a detective with a larger than life reputation who also fell victim to the ‘shadows’.  Gilda has never got over the loss and in fact a large part of her story revolves around denial and avoidance which is why the mystery she takes on threatens to unravel everything she holds dear, including her own sanity.  She’s one tough cookie with a rather bad ass reputation herself.  To be honest, she sometimes makes it difficult to like her with her hardened exterior and yet I did like her, very much so.  I loved her determination to see through a job that became scary in the extreme.  I love some of the friendships and ties that she held dear and I didn’t want the shadows to catch her up – so there it is – fear for a main character, or more to the point fear that the author will kill them off – could there be a truer test of whether a character has grown on you or not.

I can’t really tell you much more without stepping out of the dark and shining a light on spoilers and I’m not going to do that.

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.  It’s wonderfully dark and enticing and yet at the same time deceptively endearing.  At its heart it’s a coming of age story really.  Here is a young woman who has lost her family and now stands on the edge of losing everything else and yet in spite of the threat she still wants answers.  You can’t help but feel for her has she plows through the unknown in this twisting story of self discovery.

In terms of criticisms – I don’t have any.  However, I realise that some readers might find this too heavy in terms of the speculative aspects.  This is a historical mystery but it relies heavily on the fantasy elements.  I didn’t find the final reveals odd or bizarre but I’m not sure if I’m the best judge of that or not because I do also like the ‘odd and bizarre’ so my tolerance levels might be higher in that respect.  I don’t really like comparisons but I perhaps would agree with the likeness to Neil Gaiman that was used in the original blurb, almost think Neverwhere (although a bit more brutal here imo) meets Gangs of New York set in a parallel universe that is being devoured by dark shadows. Simples.

I realise this is a bit rambling but that quite often happens to my reviews when I really enjoy a book, I become slightly incoherent and meander as I hop from thought to thought.  All I can say in my defence is that I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it to dark fantasy/urban fantasy lovers.

I received a copy through Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.





20 Responses to “Westside by W.M. Akers”

  1. sjhigbee

    A great review, Lynn – I am now very intrigued by this one. Thank you for sharing as this one had completely by-passed me:)

    • @lynnsbooks

      It is a very intriguing book to be honest and just totally pulled me in.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Tammy

    Awesome review, Lynn, and I agree with everything you said. This is such an imaginative story, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it – I was excited to start after reading your review and it really hit the spot for me.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’ve never really clicked with Gaiman which is why I was sort of reluctant to try this one given all the comparisons. But I do kinda like your description of Neverwhere meets Gangs of New York! If I ever get a break in my TBR I would love to try it, though as you know, when it comes to a book blogger’s schedule, chances might be slim 😛

    • @lynnsbooks

      Book blogger’s schedules – don’t even go there. I had no idea that I’d shot myself in the foot quite so badly for the month of May until I sat down and put everything to paper – and then went into a mild panic. Anyway, yes, Gaiman can be divisive for me. The books I love work really well for me but then on the opposite side some of his books are a miss – he can be very dark and sometimes it feels a bit too much but he’s very creative. I can see, with this particular book, where the comparisons are coming from because this is quite dark but it is different again. I really liked the mystery of it all, it just compelled me forward and I loved the way the Westside and the Eastside had such a different feel due to the shadows and strange phenomenon going on.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Shalini

    I have got to check this out. I have read about this book on another blog, the story sounds so intriguing. Fabulous review 😍

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved it – very dark, a bit violent but I found it compelling. I was so invested and needed to know what was going on.
      Lynn 😀

  5. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    The ambience, the mystery and the fantastic elements – not to mention you very enthusiastic review! – all conspire to make this one of my “must” read. When, I have no idea, but this has just gone straight into my “wanted” list, with the hope that I might lose myself soon in what promises to be a very immersive story.
    Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      This just worked so very well for me. I couldn’t put it down and was thoroughly intrigued by what was going on. Definitely my type of read.
      Lynn 😀

  6. waytoofantasy

    Yay for rambling reviews, they can be quite fun. 🙂 I love the sound of this book, it seems like it has a lot of elements I love, going to add it to my list.

    • @lynnsbooks

      This has been one of my favourite reads this year – I just loved it and want to shout about it to everyone I know 😀

  7. Fun Meme : Book Bloggers A-Z | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Saints by WM Akers. Another tiny mystery.  My review for Westside is here – I loved this book, I hadn’t realised any more were planned so it makes me very happy […]

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