Book Review: The Summoner by Layton Green (Series, #1)
Dominic Grey is a rogue US government agent currently assigned to Zimbabwe when a friend of the US Ambassador disappears in the middle of a tribal religious ceremony. Grey finds himself investigating the disappearance under the watchful eye of the beautiful Zimbabwean government official, Nya and with the aid of a religious studies professor aka cult-buster, Viktor. The investigation soon leads them deep into the dark world of Juju–the religion from which Voodoo originates–not to mention the seedy underbelly of Harare.
Take Raymond Chandler, transplant him to Africa, update mores to modern liberal ones, toss in some African Juju, and you have Green’s first entry in the Dominic Grey series. If that combination doesn’t make detective mystery fans sit up and say “yes please,” then I don’t know what will.
Dominic is the classic wounded and dark but ultimately has a heart of gold detective hero. He broods. He has far more energy than is logical. He is missing the classic addiction to alcohol of yore, but the side-kick Viktor has that (to absinthe no less), so that is easily forgiven. His backstory is unique, yet relatable, plus there’s Japan and jiujitsu tossed in, which is never a minus.
The love interest is, refreshingly, a bi-racial, self-reliant woman with her own issues and priorities. She is smart, yet not lacking in vulnerabilities. Nya was a refreshing depiction of a female character in a detective mystery, and seeing an inter-racial relationship develop in a book that is not a romance novel was fresh and exciting.
The plot is complex and actually fairly terrifying, even for this hardened horror fan. I did figure it out before it was revealed, but only just barely. I did not, however, predict the ending, which is a definite plus. Those who like some horror and torture in their mysteries will certainly enjoy the plot.
The one draw-back is that Green’s writing struggles a bit on the sentence level. Sometimes the sentences are too simplistic, or he tells the reader a bit too much instead of showing. There are also times when his descriptors are a bit off. For instance, at one point the reader is told that the room smells of vivisection. Most readers do not know what vivisection smells like (thank goodness), so that kind of leaves a blank for the scent in the room. Instead, Green could have said something like, “The room smelled of vivisection–a dark musk mixed with the unmistakable scent of blood.” These issues are less of a flaw than weak characterization or bad plot, though, and I have no doubt that Green’s writing on the sentence level will improve with time and exposure.
Overall, this is an excellent first foray into the world of modern detective mysteries. Grey is an intriguing main character, the plots are unique and modern, and I’m already anticipating the next entrance in the series. I highly recommend it to fans of Raymond Chandler and detective mysteries in general.
4 out of 5 stars
Source: Free kindle copy from the author in exchange for review