Okay so first off – this title grabbed me, because I come from Catholics in Liverpool. Ever heard that joke about what they did before TV to spend the time? Yeah. My beloved Grandad was one of twelve, I believe, and his wife, my Nanny, was one of ten (ish). They had five living children, and most of their siblings had a similar number. So, seeing Second Cousin Once Removed, I immediately took an interest – and laughed out loud – because I have so many of the buggers, I can completely understand finding a random family member and wanting to know more about them.
As an interesting aside, my family on my mother’s side is originally from Argentina, but we struggle to go beyond a certain point in family history as the records were lost in the fires of Buenos Aires generations ago. So I would be fairly easy to convince regarding magically appearing family members.
When The Write Reads invited me to join in with this tour, I was interested in more than the title. This is a smaller publisher, and a lesser known author, than those we sometimes work with, and that always peaks my interest. Kenneth L. Toppell has created a fast-paced, intense thriller that literally changes page by page.
Henry Attkinson’s life as an attorney is slow, predictable, and lonely, given his divorce and his ex-wife’s custody of the kids. He recently took up geneology as a hobby to fill the time, but it doesn’t do much to spice up his mundane routine. Until the day he prods at a dead end of one of the branches of his family tree. Who is this cousin Shelley, whom he’s never met or even heard of in years? Ignoring a warning to leave well enough alone, Henry still doesn’t find much in his deeper delve into the mystery–just a concerning criminal record for the man that finally convinces him to drop the matter. But Shelley is a man who doesn’t want to be found or even looked for. And now he knows someone has been looking. Faster than he knows what’s hit him, Henry is propelled into sudden mayhem, receiving ominous threats, meeting mysterious strangers, and running for his life. Second Cousin Once Removed is a fast-paced, sweaty-palm thriller that will keep you hooked until the last page.
Let me start by saying that I really did enjoy the idea of the story, but I strongly feel like I am probably not the ideal target audience for the book. Being a (relatively) young woman, while the main character is a middle aged man, it’s hard to find a lot to relate to with Harry. I also didn’t find him particularly likable, which again, made it hard to relate.
That said, this relatively short book is a wild ride, with page after page of action, as Harry finds himself in too deep, very quickly. Shelly has proven that he doesn’t even shy away from murder, and this leaves Harry in rather a predicament – having not followed Ira’s warnings, and Ira now being dead, Harry is finding out too much and too little all at once.
The various perspectives that this book is told from don’t make sense immediately but eventually entwine. I did find that there were some bits and pieces that didn’t add up entirely, but at times the cat-and-mouse chase going on between Shelly and Harry was thought out well enough that it was unpredictable, and as Harry tries to stay covert, Shelly is just a step ahead of him.
Overall this is maybe a book I would recommend to older male relatives as I feel it doesn’t have much to give for those of a younger generation, or women, given some of the male attitudes within the book. It’s always interesting to pick up a book you wouldn’t normally read, and that’s certainly been the case here!
My thanks to Brown Books, the author, and to the lovely Write Reads as always.