Reviewed by: BigAl
Genre: Crime Fiction/Suspense
Approximate word count: 55-60,000 words
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During the day Keith Nixon is in a senior sales role, traipsing around Europe for a UK based high tech company. When he settles in for the night he reads and reviews as one of the most prolific of the pals at Books and Pals as well as writing his own fiction. His first novel, The Fix, was picked up by Caffeine Nights Publishing, a small UK based publisher that also published this series.
This is an omnibus of the full Konstantin Novellas series. The seven novellas included are:
A Chorus of Bells
Konstantin Boryakov is a Russian with a shady past and, at least from all initial signs, a shady present.
I don’t usually do disclaimers, but this book also has something I’ve never experienced before. Although I’ve been named in acknowledgements in a bunch of books and at least a few music CDs, I don’t remember ever having a book “dedicated” to me. At least not until I read Bullet, the fourth novella in this series. Thanks, Keith, but it didn’t influence my review. Konstantin had me hooked well before.
Reviewing collections, whether of short stories or a series omnibus such as this, can be problematic. You can discuss each individual book, which has a story arc all of its own, or the whole. Both if you’re ambitious. I’m going to go with option two, specifically talking about the main character of Konstantin.
Certain genres tend to focus more on plot while others, the characters are what matters most. Crime fiction or suspense, like this series, is normally all about the plot. Each installment of this series has a plot that is fast paced and satisfying. If this is your thing (and it is mine), you’ll have no complaints. But as I considered after each installment and, even more so, at the end of the series, what it was that stood out for me, it was the character of Konstantin. What I’d learned about him, how (or whether) he’d changed over time, and what that meant.
When I first met Konstantin, when reading Dream Land, he was obviously a bad guy. As in he did things most of us would consider bad. Breaking laws wasn’t something he seemed to even be conscious of. Leaving broken bodies in his wake was the norm. I wouldn’t have called him evil, but believe I used the term amoral. If the reader was ever explicitly told why Konstantin had fled Russia for the shores of England, it slipped by me. My impression was whatever his “job” was, it was shady, although I also thought the possibility was high that he worked for a covert government agency. Regardless of what he did, he’d crossed the wrong person, and needed to leave.
Over the course of the series, my opinion changed. I came to the conclusion that Konstantin wasn’t amoral, he just operated on a different set of morals than most of society. There were people he cared about or others who he felt were unable to defend themselves, who he’d go well beyond what most people would to protect them. He wouldn’t look for trouble, but if trouble found him, he’d meet fire with fire. Those broken bodies in his wake were self defense when someone chose to tangle with the wrong guy. Sometimes first impressions are the opposite of reality.
Uses UK spelling conventions
My review is based on a pre-release copy of the book.
Rating: ***** Five Stars