Sent to me by Quercus Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 15/06/17
Publisher: Quercus Books
Format: Paperback, 496pp
Summed up in a word: Remote
Welcome to my stop on the Sweet After Death Blog Tour. I have a review to share with you. I have been reading a series of bizarre and complex novels recently so it was great to read something so grounded in reality. Valentina Giambanco writes huge and bold novels! This book was 500 pages but it seemed to fly by in an instant. There are three novels that proceed this instalment and I have not read any of them (yet!) but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of Sweet After Death. Please enjoy my review and go check out the other blogs taking part in the tour! Poster is at the bottom of the page.
In the dead of winter Homicide Detective Alice Madison is sent to the remote town of Ludlow, Washington, to investigate an unspeakable crime.
Together with her partner Detective Sergeant Kevin Brown and crime scene investigator Amy Sorensen, Madison must first understand the killer’s motives…but the dark mountains that surround Ludlow know how to keep their secrets and that the human heart is wilder than any beast’s.
As the killer strikes again Madison and her team are under siege. And as they become targets Madison realises that in the freezing woods around the pretty town a cunning evil has been waiting for her.
Sweet After Death is an American police procedural set in a remote community near Seattle, Washington. This novel is the fourth instalment in the Alice Madison series but can be read comfortably as a stand alone piece (though now I want to read all of them…). Valentina Giambanco has clearly settled into this series, I was impressed by the quality of the plot, and I was absorbed by her mystery. Sweet After Death is at heart a lengthy murder mystery, with plenty of drama, psychological thrills and small town politics heaped in too. The plot had emotional depth and complexity. I was most impressed by the insights into US police procedure and forensics. This novel has a lot to offer any reader.
Homicide Detective Alice Madison, DS Kevin Brown and CSI Amy Sorensen volunteer to assist a small town police department who are taking on their very first murder investigation. The local Doctor was found burnt to death in his car in a part of town he shouldn’t have been in. Ludlow, Washington is a minute community with a police force that has three members of staff. The police are unprepared for this level of crime and the Seattle P.D think this is a great training opportunity. Upon arrival Alice and the others have to face small town politics, gossip, horrendous weather conditions, lack of facilities and citizens keeping secrets. They have their work cut out but the local police are willing to be taught. But they need to learn quickly because the threat is still lurking within the town.
Sweet After Death also follows a smaller subplot that runs alongside the main story arc. This plot is centred around Samuel, a 15 year old boy, who is suffering under the hands of his abusive father. He is not the only one, he lives on a farm with plenty of siblings and they all keep their heads down to avoid their father’s attention. But when a murder investigation brings the police to his father’s door, Samuel begins to believe he may have been responsible for other missing people. The two plots intersect and merge to create a multi-layered, and intriguing, plot that will keep even the best thinkers on their toes.
I enjoyed the plot a lot. I thought it was smart, well developed and pleasantly misleading. I was more invested in the Samuel parts of the novel as they are, in my opinion, more thrilling, emotional and meaningful. I thought Samuel was a smart and brave soul who was willing to stand against his father when it mattered. Alice Madison is also a fascinating character. Her work is the main focus, though she has a lot going on behind the scenes. I thought the insights into her past and how she came to understand violence and her father were really compelling. It also set up a subplot that I look forward to being explored in future novels.
The star element of this book was definitely the detail. The forensics were intricate and fascinated me. Madison and Brown’s dynamic as partners, how they are so in tune with each other made for an enjoyable read. I wasn’t a fan of Sorensen; I felt her over-the-top attitude to be unappealing and unnecessary. Brown is the senior officer but he has still got what it takes to get the job done and I respect that. There is plenty to respect about VG’s work and her gritty, dark and detailed writing style was enough to see me through the tense and high-stakes ending. Small town murder novels are a dime-a-dozen, but VG focused on a complex plot and was light on the small town social aggravations which made for a much smoother read.
Overall I have given Sweet After Death a 4/5 rating because it was a worthwhile read that strained my brain. I was trying to figure out who was responsible but VG doesn’t make it easy for the reader. I recommend this book to all those readers who like a darker and grittier shade of crime novel. I am eager to read the novels that proceeded Sweet After Death to get more insights into Alice and her partners.
About Valentina Giambanco
Valentina Giambanco was born in Italy. After her degree in English and Drama at Goldsmiths, she worked for a classical music retailer and as a bookseller in her local bookshop. She started in films as an editor’s apprentice in a 35mm cutting room and since then has worked on many award-winning UK and US pictures, from small independent projects to large studio productions. Valentina lives in London. (Picture from Twitter).