#BookReview Mother of Valor by Gary Corbin

Mother of ValorAbout the Book

Val’s toughest adversary yet is someone she hardly knows: her mother.

As part of a prostitution sting operation, rookie cop Val Dawes uncovers a national sex trafficking ring operating out of Clayton, one with ties to a violent shadowy right-wing splinter group. Her investigation reveals the group may be planning a violent attack in a matter of days.

Just when the investigation heats up, her estranged mother, who left without a trace a decade before, suddenly reappears on the scene, with a nine-year-old brother Val never knew she had. Manipulative and cunning, her mother divides Val’s attention and loyalties, seemingly intent on disrupting both Val’s promising career and her rekindled relationship with her father.

As Val the group’s violent plans near, Val tries to safeguard her family, leading to shocking discoveries about why her mother returned – and why she left in the first place.

Can Val keep her community safe without destroying her family?

Format: ebook (440 pages)                   Publisher: Double Diamond Publishing
Publication date: 6th December 2022 Genre: Crime

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My Review

I’ve read a quite a few of Gary Corbin’s novels including the book that preceded this one, A Better of Valor, the third in his crime series featuring rookie cop Valorie Daws. Mother of Valor can definitely be read as a standalone because the author includes key details of previous events in Val’s life. In fact, certain plot lines in the book relate back to her childhood experiences.

For Val, her mother is the woman who abandoned her and her brother, Chad, the woman who failed to believe Val’s version of an event that took place when she was thirteen, and the woman who has made no effort to contact them since. In fact, Val wonders if her mother is even still alive. It turns out to be much more complicated than that. The reader learns, well before Val does, that there is something much more sinister about Val’s mother than just the fact she abandoned her husband and children. It injects a real sense of tension and unease into the story.

Val’s family history becomes entwined with the investigation into the activities of far right extremist groups who exist in a shadowy world and are prepared to manipulate others to achieve their aims.  As the book progresses, the reader knows Val is about to learn some unpleasant truths about her mother and at the same find herself on the front line in some dangerous situations – and faced with some difficult choices.

Although courageous, resilient and highly competent in her professional life, Val’s past experiences have left her vulnerable in other respects, fearful of physical relationships. Up until now, that is, because she is in the first tentative stages of a relationship with Gil Kryzinski, her former partner/boss. Gil is a wonderful character and I loved the tender, undemanding way he approaches their relationship.

In case you think this is all getting a bit lovey-dovey, I can reassure you Mother of Valor has an exciting, fast-moving plot involving political intrigue, corruption and some really ruthless, unhinged individuals. It all feels scarily realistic and contemporary. And there are some breathless ‘race against time’ scenes towards the end of the book in which Val and her police colleagues confront the individuals behind a despicable plot that threatens many lives.

If you’re looking for a skilfully crafted police procedural with a strong female character, then Mother of Valor will tick all your boxes.

My thanks to the author for my digital review copy.

In three words: Gripping, pacy, chilling

Gary CorbinAbout the Author

Gary is an award-winning author, editor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR.

Lying in Judgment, his Amazon.com best-selling legal thriller, was released in early 2016, was selected as Bookworks.com “Book of the Week” in July 2016, and is one of six novels worldwide featured in the Literary Lightbox “Indie Spotlight” for Autumn/Winter 2016-17. His current series, the Valorie Dawes Thrillers, consists of three published books, the most recent, A Better Part of Valor, was released on September 21, 2021. The fourth book in the series, Mother of Valor, will release in November, 2022.

Gary is a member of PDX Playwrights, the Willamette Writers Group, the Northwest Independent Editors Guild, the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and the Bar Noir Writers Workshop, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

A homebrewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, there’s always Renegade’s Paradise. (Photo/bio: Author website)

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#BookReview Molly & the Captain by Anthony Quinn

Molly & The CaptainAbout the Book

A celebrated artist of the Georgian era paints his two young daughters at the family home in Bath. The portrait, known as “Molly & the Captain”, becomes instantly famous, its fate destined to echo down the centuries, touching many lives.

In the summer of 1889 a young man sits painting a line of elms in Kensington Gardens. One day he glimpses a mother at play with her two daughters and decides to include them in his picture. From that moment he is haunted by dreams that seem to foreshadow his doom.

A century later, in Kentish Town, a painter and her grown-up daughters receive news of an ancestor linking them to the long-vanished double portrait of “Molly & the Captain”. Meanwhile friendship with a young musician stirs unexpected passions and threatens to tear the family apart.

Format: Hardback (432 pages)           Publisher: Abacus
Publication date: 27th October 2022 Genre: Historical Fiction

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My Review

The most impressive thing about the book is the way the author effortlessly evokes three different time periods. The clearest example is the first section set in the 1780s in which the story is related in the form of the journal of Laura (the ‘Captain’ of the book’s title), daughter of the famous but fictional painter, William Merrymount, and her letters to her cousin, Susan.  The prose has the idiosyncracies of style of that period, exemplified in this passage from the opening chapter. ‘Mr Lowther called at the house again. He stayed for an hour & behaved with a Civility I had thought beyond him…. Molly & I later prevail’d on him to accompany Ma on the piano forte.’  Moving between Bath and London we witness how Laura’s desire for recognition of her artistic talent is thwarted by circumstances and social conventions.

The second part of the book, set a hundred years later, was much my favourite section. I loved the character of Paul, a young artist whose disability places limits – sometimes self-imposed – on his achieving the success his talent deserves. His friend, the impoverished Philip Evenlode, is also a wonderfully sympathetic character. I really became engaged in Paul’s story and that of his sister, Maggie, frustrated in her ambition to pursue a university education because of the expectation she will care for their ailing mother. There are some particularly moving parts to the book and, for me, this section could have been a novel in its own right.

The final – and longest – section, set in 1983, is largely a story of strained family relationships. It was my least favourite part of the book not because it’s not well written but because it seemed the most tangential to the story of fate of the painting. I suspect it may be of most interest to those who, like me, have read the author’s earlier book, Eureka, because it features a key character from that book, actress Billie Cantrip. In fact, this section felt rather like a follow-up to Eureka. What Billie did next, if you like.  The final reveal of the solution to the mystery of the painting Molly & the Captain didn’t come as much of a revelation to me nor, I suspect, to other observant readers. However it did neatly bring the story full circle providing links between characters separated by centuries.

This is sounding like I didn’t enjoy the book; I did. It’s just I found myself actively seeking out connections between the three sections of the book rather than these emerging unbidden. Having said that, there were some neat touches such as the little ‘time tunnels’ that occasionally open giving brief glimpses of events or characters from earlier periods.  If there is a recurring theme to the book it’s the barriers placed in the way of individuals – particularly women – to realising their potential in life, expressing their creativity and being recognised for their talent.

If it didn’t completely succeed for me, Molly & the Captain is still a skilfully crafted novel, impressive in its scope with some wonderfully drawn characters.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Abacus via NetGalley.

In three words: Assured, insightful, engaging

Try something similar: The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

Anthony QuinnAbout the Author

Anthony Quinn was born in Liverpool in 1964. From 1998 to 2013 he was the film critic for the Independent. His novels include The Rescue Man, which won the 2009 Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award; Half of the Human Race; The Streets, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Walter Scott Prize; Curtain Call, soon to be a feature film starring Ian McKellen and Gemma Arterton; Freya, Eureka, Our Friends in Berlin and London, Burning. He also wrote the recent Liverpool memoir Klopp. (Photo credit: RWC Literary Agency)