The Ishmael Jones books are the newest series by established author Simon R Green, and just like his other series taking place in the contemporary world; the Nightside, Secret Histories and Ghost Finders, they often have an otherworldly twist to them, which only contributes to their brilliance. Both elements add to the story, without completely overtaking it. What really makes these so fantastic is that they aren’t just a mystery, or a supernatural story. It is the artful mix of both that makes them such an amazing read, and that makes them the kind of instant favourite that makes you want to read them again the second you’ve finished them.
Ishmael Jones, that very secret agent from The Dark Side of the Road, is back for his second starring role, alongside Penny Belcourt, who’s wit and bravery make her one of the best leading ladies in contemporary literature. Dead Man Walking may be a sequel, but it isn’t necessary to have read the first installment, even though it does help understand some of the references to that book or know a little more about the characters. That aside, it is very much readable and enjoyable as a stand-alone.
Dead Man Walking places our lead in another murder mystery in a manor house with more history than is good for anyone, but the comparison to the first book ends there, as the plot is very much different.
It’s the kind of novel that reads easily, and that just as easily holds your attention from the first page to the last, making you regret the story is over and making you long for the next adventure of the characters you’ve come to love over the course of this tale (or tales if you’ve read both). This is murder mystery at its best, taking itself just seriously enough to be able to compete with the other great British novels in the genre, and not serious enough to be fun, quirky and most importantly: slightly different from what you would traditionally expect in the genre.
Another great thing about the lead character is, that whilst Ishmael Jones definitely does have a lot of skills, he is at the same time quite vulnerable in his own special ways, which makes him extra interesting and it absolutely sets this story apart from others. He isn’t a private eye out to defend the little guy or aid the cops, nor is he a rich vigilante that solves mysteries as a hobby. He’s simply Ishmael Jones, the man who walks on the Dark Side of the Road, trying to make the world a better place in his own way. What that way is exactly: well read and find out, it is well worth your time.
If you love murder mysteries with a twist, then Dark Side of the Road is an absolute must read. No doubt about it.
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