Sunday 15 June 2014

Carnal Acts by Sam Alexander #WhoIsSamAlexander

A stunning crime fiction novel featuring a pair of detectives in the northern English borderlands. 
DI Joni Pax, a London homicide detective wounded in a disastrous raid, has been transferred to the newly formed Police Force of North East England. 
Her boss, DCI Hector Heck Rutherford, is recently back at work after cancer treatment. Between them they are responsible for major crime in rural Northumberland and County Durham. 
Joni, the daughter of a black American and a white hippy, is a loner struggling to regain her self confidence. Heck is happily married, but his illness has left him fearful. 
Based in Corham, a town with Roman, medieval and industrial heritage, Paz and Rutherford investigate a murder at a brothel run by the Albanian mafia. 
In a series of breathtaking plot twists, the author demonstrates the corruption that underpins the beautiful northern English countryside as well as hinting at a mysterious world beyond the horizon. 
Carnal Acts explores abuse of many kinds sexual, psychological, economic taking the police procedural to places it has never been before.

Carnal Acts is published in paperback by Arcadia Books on 15 June 2014.  The world of Twitter has been ablaze with tweets about Carnal Acts. Arcadia Books have created one of the biggest mysteries I've ever seen on the net around this book.  You see, Sam Alexander is not a debut author, a new name, a first-timer. No, Sam Alexander is in fact a well-known, succesful British Crime Author - writing under another name, and so far, nobody has guessed who he/she is. I've tried, believe me, I've tried, and I have been wrong so many times. Hopefully, eventually, someone will guess correctly - I'm desperate to know who it is.

Back to Carnal Acts - the story.  Set in Northumberland, this is a tightly woven crime story - I guess it would be best described as 'crime noir' -it's certainly very dark, there are some twisted characters, some gruesome crimes and a forbidding air about this story.   Whoever the author is, they have had me on the edge of my seat for the past few days - throwing in enough red herrings to stock the best fishmonger in the business.

Lead character DI Joni Pax is new to the the North Eastern town of Corham, she's transferred up from the Met after a nasty episode with a bad guy and a big knife.  She answers to DCI Hector Rutherford, known affectionately as Heck, he's had his troubles too lately - recovering from a cancer operation and feeling as though he's stared death in the face.

The Albanians are in town. Controlling the call-girls, the drugs rings. Violent and vicious, they don't give a damn and when Pax and Heck find themselves investigating a murder at a brothel in town, they soon realise that this is more than your average run of the mill fall out in a dodgy back-street doss-house.

The story is brutal, full-on and fast moving. There is a point towards the middle of the story when I became just a little overwhelmed by the complexity of the the plot and the amount of characters that seemed to be involved, but this passed.  I found my way again and sure enough, the tension is cranked up by at least three gears as the reader is hurtled towards the stunning climax of the story.

I don't know if 'Sam Alexander' intends to write more about Pax and Heck - I hope so.  Carnal Acts could be the start of something huge in British Crime Fiction. A female lead character who is a mystery herself and a supporting cast of characters who could be developed so well. Joni Pax is an enigma. With a white mother and black father, she finds it difficult to define herself and her new colleagues certainly have trouble sussing her out - I'd love to think that readers will be able to discover more and more with a whole series devoted to her.

Carnal Acts is a thrilling, compelling, well written crime story. Complex, intelligent and exciting.  Read it, you won't be disappointed.

Check out #WhoIsSamAlexander on Twitter to see the buzz around this novel - and to see if we ever find out just who the hell is Sam Alexander.

Huge Cheers to Arcardia Books who sent my copy for review.

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  1. Great review, thank you Anne. There certainly has been a lot of buzz about #whoissamalexander on Twitter and yet the writer has not been identified. Here at TF we are now wondering if s/he is a crime writer for TV or something along those lines. Cannot imagine that with the huge knowledge and the innumerable books read by the Twitterati, that the identity hasn't been logged. New threads of investigation needed!

  2. This sounds like a hard hitter, hadn't heard of it before Anne, Great review.