“This Side of Night” by J. Todd Scott (Chris Cherry #03)

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My review of “This Side of Night” by J. Todd Scott. (Brought to you by the letter S.)

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Seductive. Satisfying. Sassy. Scintillating. Scope. Seamless. Sensational. Sensitive. Sexy. Sharp. Significant. Skilled. Skilful. Super. Snappy. Soaring. Solid. Sound. Sparkling. Spectacular. Spellbinding. Spirited. Splendid. Standout. Statuesque. Smart. Strong. Stunning. Substantive. Successful. Sumptuous. Superior. Symphonic.

(From GoodReads)

The vicious Mexican cartel war boils over into the Big Bend in the explosive new novel from the author of The Far Empty and High White Sun.

In the Mexican borderlands, a busload of student protesters is gunned down in broad daylight, a violent act blamed on the Nemesio cartel. But its ageing leader, Fox Uno, sees the attack for what it is: another salvo in the long-running battle for control of Nemesio itself; perhaps by a rival cartel, or maybe someone closer to home…

Across the Rio Grande, Sheriff Chris Cherry and his deputies America Reynosa and Danny Ford find themselves caught in Fox Uno’s escalating war with the recent discovery of five dead men at the river’s edge. But when El Paso DEA agent Joe Garrison’s own Nemesio investigation leads him into the heart of the Big Bend, he’s not ready to accept the cartel leader’s retreat or defeat. Not only does he suspect a high-profile drug task force in a neighboring county is corrupt, he can’t shake lingering doubts about the loyalty and motives of the young deputy, Ame Reynosa. And he won’t let Sheriff Cherry ignore them either.

In this pitiless land it’s kill or be killed, where everyone will make one final bloody stand to decide the fate of Nemesio, the law in the Big Bend, and most of all, the future of America Reynosa.

I hadn’t long finished “High White Sun” by J. Todd Scott when I became aware of his third book’s upcoming release date in summer 2019. I immediately pencilled the date into my diary.

Then, just a short while later, the author tweeted a picture of a box full of advance copies. Well, I decided to be cheeky and, shortly before Christmas 2018, a copy landed on my doormat.

To say I was thrilled was – and still is – an understatement.

If you have enjoyed the previous two Chris Cherry novels then you will love this one. The author is really getting into his stride now and his writing – already evocative, lean and powerful – has been taken up another level. Possibly two levels.

The book begins and ends explosively with dynamic, pulsating chapters of visceral action and tension. The gripping narrative holds you right from the start and doesn’t relent in its determination to keep the reader enthralled throughout a rip-roaring, emotional and exciting ride.

The plotting is tight and well controlled, twisty and turny and so, so satisfying. This book has pretty much all you need for a glorious escape into a realistic fictional adventure. Perfection.

In many of the most successful books, the setting is central to grounding the story and the location takes on an identity of its own. It becomes a character in its own right. Murfee, The Big Bend and the borderland between Texas and Mexico come alive between these pages. You can almost taste the dust and feel the heat on your back.

Once again, JTS has succeeded in creating characters that are fresh, real and he leaves you rooting for them. Or, in the case of the baddies – and the author is adept at penning deliciously bad baddies – for their comeuppance. And, as we readers can now be considered “fans”, we are not left disappointed in the development of our favourites characters either.

Chris Cherry is fast becoming a true favourite of mine; he is strong, determined, resourceful and dependable. Yet, also, he is incredibly fragile and unsure of himself. It is a potent mix and the emotions we feel for Chris as the book – and the series – develops really make us invested in his story.

Now, I know that this is a fictional town but, after Cherry’s speech at the election debate, I was ready and willing to put my X onto the ballot paper straight away. The scene was that good. It packed so much frailty, emotion and hope into it that I could almost hear the cheers as I closed the pages. Tremendous stuff.

And, as for America? Well, she is a beautiful enigma wrapped in a fiendish puzzle and packing some serious firepower. She is a real firecracker and a joy to read about.

I feel there is so much more of America and Chris’s journey to come.

This reader, for one, cannot wait for it.

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