I bought this book at an event put on locally around Hallowe’en time for horror etc. authors from around the eastern Virginia/Maryland/etc area. Of course, any event at a brewery is going to get my attention because hey, beer and books! But honestly I took one look at this author’s name and decided I needed to go and meet him.
Because honestly, Slade Grayson. Pen name? Legal name? Batman? The world may never know.
(To my memory, Slade is actually his given name. I’m epically jealous. I had to choose my cool sounding name.)
Since moving to Richmond, I’ve been pleased to see that there is a thriving writing community in the area and around such. Grayson is one of the first authors I’ve had the pleasure of getting the chance to sit and talk to. (Or rather stand, as I remember the situation.) He was exceedingly gracious to the strange person who came up, introducing themselves as “that person who friended you on Goodreads,” and I left pleased to have a book of his. Since we’d spoken about the fact that I’m a blogger/reviewer, I was particularly intrigued by BLAKE TWENTY-THREE, since we both conceded that it was less likely to grab the popular audience than his other work available–a werewolf story.
I’ve been lucky to come across several books lately with similar senses of humor lately, which appeal to my inner snark. I often say that it’s humor that reminds me of Alistair, my main character from REVOLUTION (see VAMPED and ADMIRAL, though the second review isn’t out yet, sorry) and it’s an easy catch for me. I like first person narrators who know they’re telling a story, and have a good sense of humor about the drama happening around them. Jasper Blake is exactly this kind of narrator.
Jasper Blake isn’t his real name, it’s a codename–not unlike James Bond, passed on from agent to agent. (At least, that’s how I see Bond.) And as the blurb says (and you might also infer from the title), he’s not the first person to be Jasper Blake. Blake is the twenty-third in his line, and Argus (the company he’s named for) seems to have a very particular attraction to this rendition of Jasper Blake.
To be fair, I can’t really tell you what this book is about. But I don’t take that as a detraction from the book. It’s a spy novel. Blake goes out, beats up bad guys, sleeps with sexy ladies, and has snarky one-liners. I’m not sure what else one would be looking for in a spy novel. There’s just enough plot and character development to keep the ball rolling, and enough held just out of eyesight to give you a few surprises. (Anna’s identity, his datalink through his earpiece, surprised me. Not sure why, but it did.) The bad guys lose (basically) and the good guys win (if you consider Argus the “good guys,” which is up for interpretation) and we’re given a truly fantastic ending…if not a typical one. But given bot Blake tells his story and who he’s set up to be, he couldn’t have a different ending–which he says as much at the end. Grayson is a master of never leaving an open end–a welcome change from the norm.
There is a lot of time shifting between chapters, which takes a while to wrap your head around. There’s an element of the storytelling from the movie Memento to it, jumping from present day to past tense with each scene, and while it’s effective and tells the story well, I found it a bit distracting. Having a book force me to wait until halfway through to really have a handle on the timeline is irksome, though I understand why Grayson did it and I think it’s most effective this way. It’s just a bit tiresome.
Would I have liked the ending to wrap up a bit more neatly? Well sure, but I agree with the ending I got even if it’s not my favorite. And a secret agent who’s paid in comic books is always going to be worth my time to read. Blake has a great sense of humor and I appreciate that more than I can say.
(Also, I think he’s at least slightly modeled after the author himself. Look at the author picture and then look at the description. Hmmmmm. I see what you did there, sir.)
Absolutely a book I recommend picking up.
Rating: **** (Recommended)
(Still glad to be your [one and only] friend on Goodreads, Slade. 🙂 )