Friday, November 16, 2012

Dark Eyes by William Richter

Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.

Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and she's just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She'll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko - her darkeyed father - finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally's mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wally's had her own killer training, and she's hungry for justice.

I enjoyed this book so much but am peeved that it's got the crappy tagline of: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens, this debut thriller introduces our next big series heroine! 

Oh ffs, get a grip.  Wally is nothing like Lisbeth Salander - LS is a psychopath.  Wally isn't anything remotely like Lisbeth.  Besides, it's a tagline that would maybe attract adult readers as I'm not entirely TGWTDT had that wide a teen readership...and so it makes me think the publishers are desperately trying to mark this as something with cross-over appeal and maybe trying too hard.  

With that mini-tantrum out of the way: I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Eyes.  In fact, I loved it so much I want to write fan-fiction, but I have good impulse control so I won't.  Dark Eyes is a mixture of adult thriller (NOT Girl With a pointless Dragon Tattoo) and the best of YA contemporary your ten quid can buy.  It's feels gritty and very real and in Wally we have a unique and strong heroine who doesn't allow herself to be pushed around.  She's living on the streets, a voluntary choice, and she's the leader of a small team of homeless kids who steal and hustle cons on tourists and unsuspecting locals. There are four of them, Ella, Jake, and Trevin.  Ella and Jake are a couple (their brief histories and why they are on the street is explained too, which was nice) and then there's Trevin who just seemed to lovely to be real. 

Dark Eyes is a twisty turny modern thriller set on the streets of NY where the city and outlying areas are used to great effect.  If I closed my eyes whilst reading it, I could easily imagine the long sweeping aerial shots of the busy roads, of sunsets and dawns over the city.  Tremendously atmospheric, the city with its ebbs and flows formed the perfect backdrop to Wally's story.  There are just enough mention of touristy places to orientate me, and more than plenty of mentions of places I've never heard of to intrigue me.  More than anything I want to find a map and look up the settings used for the book.  Is that mad? Shut up, read on. 

And what a story it is.  Who Klesko is is easily deducible and it's a nice token from the author, giving us that sly nod, letting us in on the secret.  What we need to figure out though is not only who Wally's real family is, but what's the story behind the story - why was Valentina Mayakova abandoned in a Russian orphanage, who are her parents, why was she brought to America...and who is her mum? And what's the story with Klesko, what exactly does he want and who is his murderous sidekick, called Tigr?  

All these questions are answered and a few more - what worked well is the way the story was told, in a strong unaffected voice, with side-chapters and pieces given to a concerned policeman who enters the story pretty near the start as he investigates the death of one of Wally's team.  We get the more formal police procedural, the more serious story from NYPD Detective Atley Greer. 

Richter doesn't pull punches - there's cussing, sexy times, action, guns, fights, other words, Dark Eyes is aimed at more mature readers (nothing to do here with age, btw) and to be honest, Wally's the kind of MC who you know is a bit of a poser (she admits this herself) but you like her and want her to figure out the mystery surrounding her heritage and you want her to come out ontop, swinging. 

The ending is tied off neatly, but with enough of an opening for a second book.  And I'm super pleased that there is a second book called Tiger and it's already been pre-ordered - due out next year.  

Dark Eyes is a satisfying read and definitely one I'd recommend to you guys, if you look past the utterly rubbish Lisbeth Salander faux quote. 

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