This Charming Man – C. K. McDonnell

*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to the author, Transworld Books – Random House UK and NetGalleyThe decision to review and my opinions are my own. Plus I did buy my own hardcover copy anyway, so…!*

Blurb: Vampires do not exist. Everyone knows this. So it’s particularly annoying when they start popping up around Manchester . . .

Nobody is pleased about it. Not the Founders, the secret organisation for whom vampires were invented as an allegory, nor the Folk, the magical people hidden in plain sight who only want a quiet life. And definitely not the people of Manchester, because there is nothing more irksome than being murdered by an allegory run amok. Somebody needs to sort this out fast before all Hell really breaks loose – step forward the staff of The Stranger Times.

It’s not like they don’t have enough to be dealing with. Assistant Editor Hannah has come back from getting messily divorced to discover that someone is trying to kidnap a member of their staff and while editor Vincent Banecroft would be delighted to see the back of any of his team, he doesn’t like people touching his stuff – it’s the principle of the thing.

Throw in a precarious plumbing situation, gambling debts, an entirely new way of swearing, and a certain detective inspector with what could be kindly referred to as ‘a lot of baggage’ and it all adds up to another hectic week in the life of the newspaper committed to reporting the truth that nobody else will touch.

This Charming Man is the second book in the critically acclaimed The Stranger Times series.

The last time I carried books around with me, fell asleep cuddling them and so on, I was about seven years old and had just discovered Colin Dann. Since then, Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books have held the undisputed top place in my bookish heart. Until now…

I find it hard to put into words just how much I love these books. So I’ve taken actions instead. Having received ARCs of The Stranger Times and This Charming Man via NetGalley, I still went ahead and bought hardcover copies of both, and the audiobooks of both, and followed the podcast on Spotify. I think I might be a bit of a ‘Simon’ at this point! (In fact, I have tried searching online to see if I can buy an ‘I work for the Stranger Tims’ t-shirt.)

In the first book, we had werewolves that definitely were not werewolves. In this sequel, we have vampires that absolutely cannot be vampires. Cue Hannah and the staff of the Stranger Times, and DI eyeball-in-head Sturgess investigating the latest in Manchester’s weird news stories in their bickery, brilliant way.

It is the characters that really make these stories what they are. I live in dread of C. K. McDonnell killing any (more) of them off, because I cannot imagine the team dynamic without every single one of them. They work so well as foils for each other – all different, but all absolutely necessary. And he’s added more to that mix this time round, with scummy reporter-with-a-hidden-soul Stanley Roker, and quirky duo Cogs and Zeke, now added to my ever-increasing list of favourite characters.

But it’s not just the characters and their witty banter (which Brendan McDonald has captured so well that I now hear his voice in my head while I’m reading). The world-building here is fantastic – so intriguing as it gradually unrolls alongside each plot, with the Founders and the Folk, Manny’s friend and Simon’s hints.

Speaking of which, it’s not all guffawing out loud either, as Banecroft’s side plot that started in the first book and deepens here is almost unbearably poignant. I went from chuckling to shedding an actual tear or two, as the abrasive, intelligent man I already loved was reduced to begging and bargaining in his desperation to… I’m not telling you, of course! No spoilers here. And Stella’s teenage frustration with her situation is palpable too. Ox and Stanley do some odd-couple buddy movie bonding, which should be clichéd but feels fresh and funny instead. And with all of that, Cogs and Zeke still manage to completely steal the show!

I am obsessed with these books. I never want the series to end. I recommend them to everyone in real life. And now I am strongly recommending them to YOU! If you, like me, love urban fantasy, mystery and humour all expertly blended, with worldbuilding that fascinates and characters that live in your head forever, then you cannot go wrong with these books.

And book 3, Love Will Tear Us Apart, releases on my next birthday. Guess what is top of my list?!

Since taking up her position at the paper as assistant editor, Hannah had faced many challenges. The first week aside, with its numerous near-death experiences and shocking revelations, there had since been bigger battles, principally relating to how a professional organization should be run. Vincent Banecroft, editor-at-large and arsehole-in-charge, was ‘challenging’, in the way a cat sanctuary might use the word to describe a moggie that attempted to rip off your face while you slept.

– C.K. McDonnell, This Charming Man

Find more from C.K. McDonnell (or Ciamh McDonnell) at his website here, or follow him on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

This Charming Man is available on Amazon right now!


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