Sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 24/11/17
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback, 336pp
Summed up in a word: Resolution
It always amazes me how you can return to a series after so long and have all the events of the past instalments flood back instantaneously. I was fascinated by how much I actually remembered and it was easy to jump back in to the chaotic but passionate narrative surrounding Danny Cleary. Danny and her clan have been the target of Michael, a smooth talking psychopath, who’s ‘Family’ has a reach that knows no bounds. Unhinged is the conclusion of Danny’s story and it is certainly a high-stakes affair. It is time to stand her ground and face her enemies to ensure her loved ones have a safe and secure future. Unhinged is a perfect conclusion to a manic, heroic and passionate tale of a woman protecting her own.
Danny used to smoke crack cocaine. But two years ago her sister was murdered and Danny was flung into a wild chase across North America in pursuit of the murderer and his acolytes. Following a tumultuous stint in rehab, Danny and her family have finally found sanctuary: in a converted factory in downtown Toronto decked out in the most advanced security available. Danny is clean, running a gym, and finally free to enjoy quality time with her nephews.
But when the boys’ father turns up one night, beaten to a pulp and with the name of a stripper on his lips, Danny is tangled into a series of secrets that will lead her to the final showdown and a discovery of the ultimate betrayal…
Danny Cleary is still reeling after the events surrounding the kidnapping of her twin nephews, the death of her husband, the run-in with the mastermind and psychopath Michael Vernon Smith and all the chaos that occurred during her stay within rehab in Nova Scotia. Having built a fortress within an abandoned industrial building using Dave’s contacts and an extortionate amount of her inheritance, Danny and her clan are safe. But with Michael Vernon Smith still at large, Danny can’t rest until he is dead and she knows he is close, plotting her demise and the capture of all she holds dear. Danny is ready but until Michael makes his move, she is powerless against him. Unhinged is the conclusion to a huge, thrilling, chaotic and passionate tale of Danny’s efforts to preserve the memory of her loved ones and protect the lives of those she still has left.
After a bizarrely short lived prologue that sees Danny giving up on life and setting out to end it all in a plush hotel room, we are thrown back into the usual high-stakes and intense narrative surrounding Danny and her family. After one of her contacts in law enforcement shows Danny a CCTV video of Michael Vernon Smith entering the country, Danny goes on to high alert. This showdown has been brewing ever since the death of Danny’s twin sister Ginger and Danny is hell-bent on destroying Smith and everything he stands for. Unfortunately Michael is as intelligent as he is deranged and Danny must wait until Smith makes his move. The tension reaches boiling point and Danny must above and beyond for her family to bring this killer to his knees. Unhinged is a fitting conclusion to a stellar series and for the most part I really enjoyed it.
Danny Cleary is a great character and she has come along way from the crack addicted hermit she was in the first book. Fighting fit and passionately persistent, Danny is dedicated to the protection of the twins Luke and Matty. The boys are her world and she wants them to have a normal life, besides the combat and weapons training, and to do that Smith needs to die. Smith is truly in Danny’s head though and over the course of the narrative Danny gradually loses confidence in herself and her mind begins to fracture. Danny is a delicate soul underneath all of her badass veneer and the more that Smith does to provoke or hurt Danny, the closer to a meltdown she gets. I really appreciated Danny’s character and she has certainly made all three books worth reading. Danny’s dynamic as an auntie, sister, fighter, lover, addict and adversary makes her one hell of a draw for any reader and I can’t recommend this series enough to those who enjoy a tale of overcoming tyrants to protect the defenceless.
Michael Vernon Smith is a fantastic villain and I was impressed that he is so menacing despite having very little actual presence in the novel. His time spent with Danny is potently unsettling and it is clear that he is pulling the strings no matter where he is in the world. I have to give Barbara Leslie top marks for her character development across the board. Each character has grown over the course of the books and I loved the unity that they all shared about the protection of each other and the demise of Smith. I also thought the injection of mystery and mistrust that BL added into the group was a fascinating and brilliant change in dynamic. As the story progresses Danny finds herself questioning even the closest of those around her.
The weakest point for me was actually the story that Unhinged is centred around. It is designed to build tension and anxiety between Danny and the group and it certainly does that. But it just felt a tad simple and even boring at times. It takes until the second act for anything to really happen and then it is still patchy and disjointed. Luckily the real story kicks into the third act and really puts a fire under everyone’s bums. I wasn’t necessarily disappointed with the story but it could have been a tad more upbeat and challenging instead of the first and most of the second act being Danny waiting for Smith to make a move by just getting on with things. There are points that I loved about the story, such as the mystery of Smith’s appearance and the deaths centred around the club that Danny has taken a job at, but overall until the third act I was mentally drumming my fingers. Once act three kicked in I was elated and began to understand what BL had been building up to and it was a appropriate finale to the entire series.
Barbara Leslie has an intriguing writing style that combines many different elements. From dark (or charming) humour to difficult themes like addiction, death or worse. I found myself really getting into her writing and the bizarrely captivating episodes that she has created for Danny. The character development and dialogue is spot on, encouraging the reader join in with the events unfolding within. I love it when authors create characters you want to invest in and see through to the end. The pacing of the novel was, for me, the only issue I had with the writing. It could have progressed quicker and had some of the interactions lengthened but overall I appreciated what BL was trying to achieve with Unhinged.
I highly recommend the Danny Cleary saga to all those readers who love a great character driven Crime/Thriller story with plenty of danger, risk, action and humour; with plenty of heart to go with it. I am glad I had the opportunity to invest time in the series and I am looking forward to seeing where Barbara Leslie takes her writing next.
About Barbra Leslie
Barbra Leslie studied film and theatre at York University, then English at the University of Toronto. She has published numerous stories in literary magazines, a novel, Nerve, and a screenplay for straightedge films. She’s been a marketing manager for a major Bay Street law firm, a court reporter, and criminal law issues officer for a government ministry. Follow her on Twitter @barbrajleslie