Book Reviews, Crime

Review: Incy Wincy by RJ Dark

Malachite Jones is a pretend psychic medium and an unwilling detective. 
He certainly doesn’t want anyone bringing him a missing persons case. 
Definitely not two.
When a body turns up he knows life is only going to get harder.

Blades Edge premier gangster, Trolley Mick, owes a favour to a family whose son, Daniel Jerrings, has vanished. He wants Mal to pay it. Jackie’s friend from the military, Spider, is also missing. And though Jackie doesn’t really do friends, he does do loyalty and that means Mal does too.

But it seems that there are plenty of other people out there looking for Spider, and everything is spiralling down the drain in a wash of designer drugs, UFOs, racists, violent youth gangs and a group of evangelical Americans with their own agenda. Somehow, it all involves a missing teenager but nothing adds up, and violence lurks around every corner. Discovering the truth means sinking deeper into the grimy world of organised crime where dangerous people have an awful lot to lose, and a way out for Mal and Jackie is getting harder and harder to see. 

Thank you to the publisher, Wavesback, for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

If you haven’t read the first Mal & Jackie novel, A Numbers Game, stop whatever you’re doing and pick it up right now, because as soon as you’re finished that one you’ll be itching to start Incy Wincy! If you need further enticing, here is my review for A Numbers Game. But to summarise without spoilers, Malachite Jones (but please don’t call him Malachite) is a psychic medium (aka a scam artist) living on the outskirts of the gritty Blades Edge estate, and because of his best (and only) friend and landlord Jackie Singh Khattar he became involved in finding a missing lottery ticket and events exploded from there. After that case, Mal finds himself a reluctant private investigator, since Jackie refuses to remove the new sign that advertises him as such.

‘There was a new sign above my office. I had a number of problems with the sign, and Jackie was pretending that he didn’t know that as he watched two men finish putting the thing up.’

Because of this, he finds himself in the middle of a missing persons case, and its not long before someone else goes missing. First a kid from Blades Edge, then Jackie’s old friend from the military, a man known as Spider. When you throw into the mix a new synthetic drug called clown, racists gangs, and Americans, things seem like they’ll never become clear.

I love the formulas that emerge from detective series featuring the same cast of characters, because while half the enjoyment is the mystery, the other half is undoubtedly the people and their interactions. RJ Dark has created some incredible dynamics; despite everyone moving in shady circles in a world that is cruel most of the time, the humour and matter-of-factness present throughout balances out the grittiness and makes a story about gangs, drugs, and murder far funnier than it has any right to be.

The best dynamic is, of course, the one between Mal and Jackie. Reluctant, introvert Mal and boisterous, reckless Jackie. Mal who often needs Jackie to ensure his safety, but Jackie who clearly needs Mal just as much for that connection to normality and humanity. I think I’ve said this before, but I could literally read a book about these two doing anything, because their interactions are entertaining enough on their own. The supporting cast is also incredibly fun, despite it mainly being Russian mobsters, a small time crime lord named Trolley Mick, his twin terror sons, and Mal’s very mean secretary Beryl. I hope one of these days we get to find out what Beryl’s up to…

I won’t talk too much about the plot itself, because the joy is always in the unravelling, but I will say that despite me predicting part of the resolution, the puzzle solving, red herrings, and clue hunting kept me enthralled and I just enjoyed going along for the ride. It’s a page-turner, and a light and entertaining read that also has some deep reflections on current events and the state of society. In that way, it feels like the English equivalent of my favourite Italian crime series, the Inspector Montalbano mysteries. So, if you are at all into crime fiction, or are looking at giving it a go, this is a great one to pick up!

Book Info

Published: 24th March 2022 by Wavesback
Genre: crime
Pages: 360
Series: Mal & Jackie, book two
Narration style: first person, past tense
Format read: ebook
Content Warnings: drugs and drug related crimes, death, racism, homophobia, torture, disfigurement

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