HOPE ROAD by John Barlow, Book Review

Hope Road… You can’t change your past. But what about your future?

Hope Road John Barlow

Hope Road Synopsis:

John Ray, son of crime boss Antonio ‘Tony’ Ray, is the straight one of the family. With a successful business and a lifestyle to match, he wants nothing to do with his father’s criminal world. But what does that world want with him?

A young prostitute is found dead in John’s car, and Freddy Metcalfe, his best friend and employee, is framed for her death. Freddy denies everything but it’s an open and shut case: he’s going down for murder. John sets out to find the real killer.

But things get complicated. A stash of counterfeit money was also found in John’s car, and the police seem more interested in that than in the dead girl. Then Lanny Bride turns up; one of the north’s most ruthless criminals (and an old friend of the Ray family), Lanny is desperate to know who killed the girl. But why? Meanwhile, Freddy is too scared to talk to anyone, even his lawyer.

John’s police detective girlfriend, Denise Danson, has been warned off the case by her boss. But she doesn’t believe Freddy is guilty, and secretly helps John look for the murderer. The problem, though, is that uncovering the shocking truth about the girl’s death will force John to confront his own criminal past and risk destroying his future, as well as losing the only woman he’s ever loved. (Amazon)

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I was pleasantly surprised by John Barlow and Hope Road, his first offering in a planned 9 title ebook crime series based in Leeds.

My first impressions, largely based on the story being written in the present tense and somewhat gratuitous use of a certain swear word, were that despite the criminal subject matter this was going to be a relatively light read with a straight forward plot line — read ‘average’. I soon realised that Hope Road is not ‘average’ at all, and that initial feeling of simplicity is all part of author John Barlow’s cunning plan.

John Barlow has filled his dark and gritty Leeds Hope Road with complex characters that keep you guessing.

Characters’ back stories are selectively and inventively disclosed, with clues left in plain sight. Barlow paints a picture for the reader and then turns the lights out and shines a UV light on it with shocking effect.

Barlow also displays a real talent for setting scenes and finding the emotion in the everyday and seemingly mundane. Take for example this powerful description of the ending of horse race John witnesses in parallel with his best friend being apprehended by police.

Acephal’s not going to make it. A furlong out and the crowd has turned fatalistically, as if their cries now express the agonising but inevitable tragi-comedy of life. Flat racing, suddenly, is about the enduring frustrations of existence, the inevitability of its disappointments and betrayals. Before the race the horse is everything; afterwards it is nothing. Unless it wins. Then it’s a god.

The writing has a slow motion, cinematic quality to it – as if the reader is watching it on screen.

We can extrapolate from this first instalment in the LS9 Crime Series that there is much to look forward to. In Hope Road John Barlow has displayed his skill with smoke and mirrors and laid the groundwork for many more revelations to come from this extended crime family. Hope Road is compelling fiction recommended for those who acknowledge there is more grey in this world than black and white.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of Hope Road from:

Amazon | Kobobooks | B&N

Genre: Crime-Detective, Thriller, Mystery, Drama

About the Author, John Barlow

John Barlow was born in West Yorkshire, England, in 1967. He worked as a musician before studying English Literature at Cambridge University and language acquisition at Hull University. After teaching English for several years, he moved to Spain to write full-time, and has been there ever since. He is married to Susana, with whom he has two sons. They currently live in the Galician city of A Coruna.

John Barlow’s prize-winning fiction and non-fiction has been published by HarperCollins/William Morrow, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 4th Estate and various others in the UK, US, Australia, Russia, Italy, Germany, Spain and Poland.

Other reviews of Hope Road

Goodreads, At The Scene of The CrimeHis Futile Preoccupations

* My receiving this ebook for free from the author did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions having read the novel.