Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Mini-Review: Harlem Sunset

When I read and reviewed Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia earlier this year I closed out the review by saying I wasn't sure I would continue with the series. Well, guess what I found when I did a deeper dive into my backlog of ARCs on my Kindle?  Yeah, Book 2 in the series, Harlem Sunset. I really need to exhibit some self-control and not request multiple books in a series on Netgalley before I even read the first book 🙄.  

This book picks up where the first book left off.  The Girl Killer has been dispatched, Louise is now working at her friend Rafael's club, The Dove, and she's moved into a new apartment with Rafael's sister, and her longtime girlfriend, Rosa Maria.  They're celebrating Louise's 27th birthday at the club when in walks Nora Davies.  Nora was one of the girls Louise rescued when she was abducted by The Girl Killer as a teenager. After the club closes the group settles in for some after hours drinking, only to discover they've been drugged. When they all wake up Rosa Maria is covered in blood and Nora is dead.  Louise just knows that Rosa Maria couldn't kill anyone, but the cops lack imagination and have the group in their crosshairs. Louise puts her investigator's hat back on and starts digging.

Let's start with the good - I do think this was a better executed book.  The pacing issues I had with Book 1 are ironed out more here. Louise continues to be an interesting character with some complicated edges to her and we learn a bit more about her family (she's estranged from her father) in this book which adds more depth. Also, while I found Rosa Maria annoying in Book 1, she's not so bad here - maybe I'm softening in my old age? - and the Prohibition Harlem setting continues to be interesting.

What doesn't work so well? While the pacing issues are cleaned up, I still found the author's tendency to jump ahead in the narrative timeline a bit ragged. It's like she takes us from Point A to Point C while speeding past Point B. This kind of thing always gives me whiplash as a reader.

This is also a book that does not stand-alone well as so much of the story hinges on events detailed in Book 1.  For that reason reading Book 2 ahead of Book 1 essentially "spoils" the entirety of Book 1 - so something to keep in mind if you're entertaining starting this series. It really needs to be read in order.

And ultimately, that leads me to my biggest issue with this book - Louise is pretty dense.  Given her life experiences (abducted at 16, in the cross hairs of a murderer in Book 1), you just expect her to be more jaded and not so trusting.  I clocked the Bad Guy the minute they waltzed on page and remembered enough minor details from Book 1 that I even had the motive unraveled before Louise catches a clue. And this is a character she just implicitly trusts from the jump. 

In the end, while I do think this is a better book in some ways over the first one, I'm left with pretty much the exact same reaction. I didn't hate it, but there wasn't much here to inspire me to keep going. Thankfully Past Wendy exhibited some control and did not download the ARC of Book 3 from Netgalley.

Final Grade = C+


azteclady said...

I really need to exhibit some self-control and not request multiple books in a series on Netgalley before I even read the first book.

This should be on my...okay, I want cremation, so not gravestone. Death marker? Urn? Death notice?


It, me.

(Have pity on me and never asked me how many cozy mystery series I have two, three or five ARCs for)

Wendy said...

AL: This affliction is in the same family as collecting multiple books by the same author before you read even one. That's probably a lost cause for me, but I really need to do better about series. I'm lucky and have access to multiple library systems, glomming on to a series late even if I don't have all the books isn't too big of a hurdle for me to clear.

azteclady said...

"in the same family as collecting multiple books by the same author before you read even one. "

I am so guilty of this! It used to be that I would get books reccommended by everyone in the old online Romancelandia (blogs linking to blogs and talking about the same book from different perspectives...::sigh:: ); lately, what with NetGalley, I have falled for four or five books in a series by an unknown-to-me author just because of the covers--then I read the first and go, "the hell?"

Not good, very hard to wean oneself of.