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The Anarchists' Club

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The actual mystery of this book is thrust into the background making this book primarily about Leo Stanhope. In many cases, I would consider this a flaw but Leo Stanhope is a fascinating character whose secrets affect the decisions that form his actions within Victorian England. I had not read #1 in this series but hadn't needed to (though I read Moon Street soon after.)
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Outside the Anarchist's club of the title, a body is unearthed.  The police come knocking on Leo's door as his name and address was found in the corpse's pocket, and he is, therefore, a suspect.

I haven't read the first book in this series but it is written in such a way that it really doesn't matter.

The protagonist and unwitting detective is an unusual man in Victorian London.  He was born female and called Lottie in childhood until he ran away from home as a young person and became Leo.  There were no hormone treatments or surgical options at that time and the risks were much greater than nowadays. If discovered Leo could be prosecuted for fraud, not to mention being ostracised from everybody he knows, probable eviction and financial ruin.   Leo, therefore, has a secret that he will go to any lengths to hide.

The only person who knows Leo's secret is Mrs Flowers. They have a complicated relationship and he often takes her for granted, but she acts, almost as a partner and aids him in his investigation.   Leo often treats her poorly, as if he really has no insight into being a woman at that time, which I am not sure is because this book was written by a man or if Leo is just overcompensating.

This was an intriguing mystery, and I admit it, I was utterly clueless as to whodunit until it was all revealed.  There are many twists and turns to the narrative and many times we think it has all been solved, only to be disappointed.
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One of the first books I read this year was Alex Reeve’s The House on Half Moon Street, the first in a new mystery series set in Victorian London. I enjoyed it and couldn’t wait to meet its hero, Leo Stanhope, again. Now that I’ve read the second book, The Anarchists’ Club, I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. If you’re wondering whether it’s necessary to read the series in order, I don’t think it’s essential...you will have a better understanding of Leo and his background if you do, but otherwise both books work well as standalone mysteries.

Catching up with Leo again at the beginning of The Anarchists’ Club, it seems that not much has changed in his life. He is still renting a room above a pharmacy, still working as a hospital porter, still meeting his only friend Jacob for an occasional game of chess. One day he is helping out in the pharmacy when a woman comes in to buy some bromide. Lacking the money to pay, she asks for credit, but Leo refuses, telling her she will have to speak to the owner. It’s only a brief interaction but one which Leo will remember forever, because a few days later he receives a visit from the police. The woman, Dora Hannigan, has been murdered and a scrap of paper with Leo’s name and address on it has been found on her body.

Among the suspects is John Thackery, a man Leo knew many years ago – when he was quite literally a different person. If John makes his former identity known, the whole new life Leo has built for himself could be destroyed, so he agrees to give John an alibi in return for his silence. Has Leo done the right thing or is he allowing a murderer to walk free? The only way to be sure is to investigate the murder himself…

Leo’s investigations lead him to, as the title of the book suggests, a club of ‘anarchists and socialists’ with whom the dead woman had become involved. I was slightly disappointed that we don’t find out as much about these people and their work as I’d expected; although the division between the rich and poor in society is one of the book’s main themes, the mystery itself doesn’t really have much to do with any of that. As with the first novel, the most interesting aspect of the story is the character of Leo himself. Although he is known as Leo Stanhope now, he grew up as Lottie Pritchard before deciding as a teenager that he could no longer continue living as a woman and denying who he really was. Being transgender in the 19th century is not easy and a few words from someone who knows the truth – someone like John Thackery – could ruin everything for him. For Leo, though, being true to himself is worth the risk and the danger. As I am not transgender myself and, as far as I know, Alex Reeve isn’t either, I can’t really say whether the portrayal of Leo and his thoughts and feelings is accurate or not, but it does feel believable to me.

The books are narrated by Leo in the first person and I find him a very likeable character. For obvious reasons, he tries not to attract too much attention to himself and has a quiet, unassuming nature. In this second novel, I loved his relationship with Aiden and Ciara, Dora Hannigan’s children, whom he befriends and tries to look after once it becomes obvious that nobody else is going to. This is particularly touching because there are so few people in Leo’s life whom he still cares about or who care about him, having become estranged from his parents and sister after making the decision to leave his life as Lottie behind.

I was also pleased to meet Rosie Flowers, the pie maker, again; I said earlier that Jacob is Leo’s only friend, but that’s not quite true because although Rosie and Leo exasperate each other at times, they formed a close bond during their investigation of the previous mystery and work together to try to solve this one as well. I’m hoping to see them both again in future books; I haven’t seen any news of a third Leo Stanhope mystery yet, but I will certainly be looking out for it.
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I found Leo Stanhope's 2nd adventure just as addictive as the first. Leo is one of my favourite literary characters - with struggles and flaws in equal measure.

I got lost in the setting and ended up reading this book in one sitting - I am a big fan of Alex Reeve's descriptions of Victorian life, making Leo's world all the more real. Trying to keep a low profile, Leo is still living above the pharmacy and working as a hospital porter. This all changes when a woman's body is found in a grave at a club - and Leo recognises her as a customer at the pharmacy. Not only this, Leo's name and address are found on a note discovered with the body. Denying all knowledge of the woman, Leo is thrown into dangerous territory whilst attempting to uncover the mystery.

I was pleased to see the rich cast of supporting characters back in The Anarchist's Club (especially Rosie) along with the addition of a few new ones! We find out more about Leo's struggle with his past - as a trans man in Victorian London, this novel threw a spotlight on Leo's battle with his family, as well as the danger of being 'discovered'. 
The House on Half Moon Street seemed to focus on the story of the crime, rather than Leo's gender - in contrast, his experience was very much in the foreground in The Anarchist's Club. We are reminded how dangerous it was to be transgender in the Victorian era and the issues and attitudes that Leo has to endure. I found Reeve's depiction of the disparity between rich and poor to be especially interesting - how those with power chose to wield it, and the impact this had on workers and individuals without that power.

I'm looking forward to following Leo on his further adventures!
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Honestly, this book did not have me hooked in the same way as the first. The build-up to the crime was a bit sloppy and I felt that the other characters besides Leo could have been more developed earlier on. Some of them also seemed to come out of nowhere extremely conveniently, and the way that some are able to instantly recognise him as Lottie is a bit disconcerting when you've been imagining what someone looks like so much in the first book. I didn't picture him looking that much like a woman facially, but this has skewed my view a little. Other than that, the crime story was okay but needs a bit more development and less convenient placements of characters.
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A highly original Victorian murder mystery, which is totally absorbing with a unique central character.
This is the second book in a series but stands alone well, without any obvious recap or information dump. It features a transgender man, which, in Victorian times would have put him in an asylum should his secret become known. The 'secret' is a factor in the mystery surrounding the murder of a woman and the future of her orphaned children, but does not dominate the story otherwise. This is handled much better than I imagined it would be.

Nineteenth century London is depicted in a charming way, with appropriate language such as the use of the words 'fellow' and 'marvellous' and no pseudo-historical speech. There is a music hall, pie shop and a pharmacy that has a dentist's chair.  None of these are lost in swathes of descriptive text but included in the stride of  the story.

The titular Anarchists' Club highlights the contrast between the social classes and the issues of poverty, working conditions and education.  There are references to the wave of revolution that had already spread through the rest of Europe nearly forty years earlier, which includes new ideas such as those of Darwin. The survival of the fittest concept being used to exploit poor because that is the natural order of things.

The theme of family runs throughout, with several characters in conflict with their natural parents while others struggle to find out their true parentage. As in real life, families and loyalties are complicated and tested frequently. The idea of only women being able to raise children is considered, as the protagonist seeks out women (mothers) to adopt a pair of orphans before he realises that both his landlord and his own father raised their children without mothers. The bond builds between the orphans and the transgender amateur detective, which makes him wonder if he has an instinctive desire to nurture them. As his female friend says about raising children: 'It's like bits of your soul detaching themselves and walking around on their own.'

​There is tension, atmosphere and terror in this excellent book and I am looking forward to reading more about this unique character.

#NetGalley #TheAnarchistsClub
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Quite an interesting historical drama with a modern take on gender. Not as much about anarchism as the title might suggest and the politics was underplayed for my tastes.
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Having read the first Leo Stanhope instalment, I was looking forward to The Anarchists Club, and it is in keeping with the first novel. It was an enjoyable and easy read, as you make your way through it becomes less and less about the person Leo Stanhope used to be and who he is now. This time Leo is dragged into the murder of Dora Hannigan through a childhood friend, and is determined to discover the truth behind Dora’s death. My only criticism is that if you hadn't read the first book, you wouldn’t not know the history between Leo and Rosie Flowers, however you don’t have to have read it to appreciate The Anarchists Club.
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First off, I want to preface all of this by saying that I am a cis woman. And that's important to say, because this is a novel about a trans man.

Leo Stanhope is still reeling from the events of last year, when the woman he loved turned up dead and he became mixed up in the investigation to find her killer. But now, another woman has turned up dead - with his name and address in her pocket. As figures from his past crop up and he tries to avoid their threats while work out their secrets, Leo also finds himself going out of his way to care for the dead woman's two children. As he tries to find answers, he also tries to keep anyone from finding out the secret most dear to him.

This is the second in the Leo Stanhope series, and I ADORED the first one - The House On Half Moon Street - and you can read the review here. I loved seeing a trans character in Victorian London, which is a dynamic I can't say I've read before. The mystery was thrilling and I raced through the book.

My only fault - and it is a big one - was the - slight spoiler - rape of the main character. It was as if we, as readers, needed to be reminded that Leo was actually a woman? That he was still vulnerable in all the ways women are? And I don't think the author intended it this way. Leo ended up in this situation because he tried to protect a friend of his who was about to be raped - but still. Using rape in this situation did nothing to propel the story forward and it could have been pretty much the same without. To use it as a plot device in this way was lazy, unimaginative, and disrespectful. I read reviews of The House on Half Moon Street that said it was completely obvious that the author was cis, and that there were glaringly obvious problems with the novel. As I said at the beginning, I'm cis, and so there are obviously people who can see the problems in this book that I overlooked because of my position.

I have found this interview Reeve did which talks about this reasoning for writing about a trans character.  And that backs up my reasoning for feeling that he had good intentions with this book and character. But - '...I gave myself a rule: this wouldn’t be a novel about being trans, it would be a novel about a man who happened to be trans. That clarified everything for me. Leo was confronted by a tragedy anyone might face; it was neither caused or solved by his being trans. He has a unique perspective, but being trans is just one part of who he is, not the sum of it.' is something that I have great issue with when it comes to The Anarchists' Club. I'll come back to this in a minute.

But I had higher hopes for The Anarchists' Club. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The reasons I disliked this book were two-fold.

First off - it was boring. I didn't care for any of the new characters introduced in this book - I found their motives lacking and their reasoning quite 2D. The plot was very simplistic, and I just didn't feel invested in any of it.

The second reason, and the most important, is the way Leo was constantly reminded of 'who he really was' and was blackmailed to keep his past a secret. This is where Reeve's quote from above comes in. 'Leo was confronted by a tragedy anyone might face; it was neither caused or solved by his being trans.' Except, when a man from Leo's past pops up and knows that Leo was 'born a girl' this becomes more than that. When Leo is made - and I say made, because Reeve made this character and creates their arc and lives and everything in it - to reconnect with people who insist on calling him Charlotte, to be constantly threatened because of who he is - that's more than just 'happens to be trans.'

I just didn't like it. The whole story revolved around other characters blackmailing Leo for who he used to be, bringing up his past which he'd rather forget, and threatening him. And I know that this does happen, and that this sort of stuff is relevant to trans characters and trans people. It just... didn't feel like it was presented in the right way. This was a mystery novel which was meant to just 'happen to have a trans character' and instead so much rested on Leo's gender.

I was majorly disappointed and can't see myself following the rest of the series, should it continue.
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My thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing U.K./Raven Books for an eARC via NetGalley of ‘The Anarchists’ Club’ by Alex Reeve in exchange for an honest review. 

This is the second in a series of crime thrillers set in Victorian London featuring a transgender protagonist.  A year has passed since the events of ‘Half Moon Street’ and Leo Stanhope is continuing his work as a hospital porter living a quiet life above the pharmacy run by his friend Alfie. He is determined to keep his head down as his fear of being exposed is always present. 

One day a woman comes into the pharmacy with her two children and has a brief interaction with Leo (she requests credit that he cannot grant). A few days later the police call on Leo with news that the woman’s body has been found in a shallow grave. A note with Leo’s name has been found on her body. Her body was found at a club where anarchists meet. 

When the police take Leo there he recognises a man from his past who knows his birth identity. He basically demands that Leo provide him with an alibi for the night of the murder or he will expose Leo to the authorities. Oh dear! There are further murders, family secrets and more before the final dramatic scenes.

Again Reeve has created a strong sense of the period and setting. I had loved ‘Half Moon Street’ for this as well as its strong plot and of course, Leo. I do feel it is best to read them in chronological order as ‘The Anarchists’ Club’ builds on the characterisation of Leo and his allies established in ‘Half Moon Street’. I especially adore Rosie Flowers, who is so down-to-earth, a natural investigator, and such a good friend to Leo.

I found this another very compelling read as good as if not better than the first novel. Alongside a great mystery Reeve explores social themes of workers rights and the relationship between the working poor and those rich and powerful men in charge of industry.

I was very pleased to find myself back in Leo’s company and am certainly looking forward to more cases for Leo, Rosie and friends.
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A really good read. I love the atmosphere and descriptions of Victorian London. I have read the first novel and I think this is going to be an interesting and different series. Recommended reading #NetGalley#TheAnarchistsClub
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This is the second book in the series. It is as well written and as well researched as the first. This book is full of suspense and great characters. Leo is a really interesting strong character. I hope there are more books to come.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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Having been captivated and utterly blown away by Alex Reeve's historical crime debut The House on Half Moon Street, the first in the Victorian era Leo Stanhope series, I never thought Mr Reeve could match the quality and compulsive nature of the first novel; I was wrong. This is somehow even better. There are many aspects that make this an unmissable series, not least that our protagonist Leo was born Charlotte Pritchard and reflecting the views of the period transgender Leo would be in great danger should his secret ever be exposed leading to a natural tension. This is a compelling and deeply engaging mystery in which the characters and plot deepen effortlessly with every turn of the page.

The Anarchists' Club is a well researched and beautifully plotted yarn which can easily be read as a standalone but naturally, a deeper understanding of everything would only be achieved by reading them chronologically and watching the characters evolve over time. There is a constant sense of tension and unease unpinning the entire mystery and Reeve manages to ratchet up the suspense to create an ominous atmosphere. With a likeable cast, a pacy narrative and a wise message about the shockingly different lives the wealthy led as opposed to the impoverished in dirty Victorian London, this complex novel held me hostage from first page to last. 

All in all, this is an intelligent and original piece of crime fiction. I look forward to the next instalment. Many thanks to Raven Books for an ARC.
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Steeped in danger and suspense this was a brilliant continuation of the Leo Stanhope series. A unique tale, capturing the atmosphere of the time so well, I can't wait to see where it goes next.
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To get the best from this book I would really recommend that you read the first in series, The House on Half Moon Street, before starting this sequel. You really need the whole background to really appreciate who Leo Stanhope is and where he came from.
Leo is still living with Alfie and Constance and is perturbed when one day he is called to the scene of a crime, his ink being that his name was found on the victim. Coincidentally (or not) said victim visited him in the chemist not long since wanting a large quantity of a drug on account. Was his refusal to supply connected to her death? At the scene he encounters someone who knows his past, someone who could expose him. Someone who then blackmails him for an alibi. What has Leo got himself embroiled in and will he be able to get to the truth before too late?
In this book, we see another different side of Leo as he tries to help the children of the murdered woman. With what had gone before in the first in series to shape Leo was rounded off nicely with this extra characteristic and only made me sympathise/empathise with him more. And, with the majority of the background and scene setting stuff also having been set up nicely in the series opener, the story in this sequel was more able to get on with itself, the foundations already having been fully established. This made the book flow better and the author was able to fully develop the plot as it went on. Leo also has some tricky family stuff to contend with in this book and this is handled very well. Sure was a different time back then. 
Once again the author has done a great job of describing Victorian London, both the time and place, especially with respect to prejudices and class difference. Highlighted by the setting of the Anarchists' Club of the title. Plotting is tight and description is kept to only the necessary without the need for padding.
All in all, a cracking follow up which held my attention throughout and left me satisfied at its conclusion. Roll on book three. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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Truly wonderful historic fiction.  Following up on Half Moon Street we meet Leo Stanhope again.  Leo formerly Lottie is struggling through life passing off as a man, whom he should be, but Victorian society would not accept this and the fate being found would be horrific.  The descriptive writing of this victorian era are so vivid you can sense the tension in the slums and the writing brings your senses alive as you can visualise and almost smell the surroundings.  A great whodunnit with wonderful characters.  Highly recommended.
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The Anarchists' Club sees us paying a second visit to the world of Leo Stanhope, a man who was born a woman, trying to live his life and protect his secret in the heart of Victorian London.

We rejoin Leo a year on from the events in the first book of the series, 'The House of Half Moon Street.' He is still living with Alfie and Constance and has tried to put the tragic events of the earlier novel behind him. Naturally this happy situation does not last long as he finds himself unwillingly drawn into another murder investigation, this time of a woman he met just once when she came to buy bromide from Alfie's Pharmacy.

As the story proceeds Leo finds himself increasingly concerned with the welfare of Aidan and Ciara, the dead woman's two children. Their fate is very much in the balance without their mother to protect them especially when it becomes apparent that one of them may have seen the criminal.

The backdrop to the novel is the titular 'Anarchists' Club', a meeting place for those who are dissatisfied with the way in which the wealthy exploit the labour of their employees. Once more Alex Reeve weaves the inherent injustice present in Victorian society so that it pervades and underscores the whole novel without ever becoming 'preachy'. The motivations of both sides are clear, each believing entirely in the rightness of their attitude. There is a memorable scene where one character from the ruling classes tries to justify his actions by reading passages from Darwin's 'On the Origin of Species.'

In addition to all this we discover that surrogacy and homosexuality were also prevalent in the era though not spoken of and, once again, Alex Reeve allows these subjects to influence his story without overdoing the social history.

Leo, of course, is still trying to keep his secret - he is living as a man but is terrified of being exposed as a woman. His fear of being found out and the consequences which that would entail influence all his actions. We also find out more about his family life before he ran away as he discovers that the father he hated so much is dying and wants to meet one more time. Leo's struggle with his conscience over whether to grant this last request is very poignant as is his coming to terms with the fact that the fault may not all have been on one side.

The story is well told and gripping with the characters and the world they inhabit well drawn and easy to imagine. The clues were all there and I felt that I should have worked out who the criminal was before the dénouement but Mr Reeve beat me!

I would recommend the book though I would strongly advise people to read the earlier novel in the series first. Not only do many characters appear in the new book but some essential plot points from book one are explicitly stated here which may well ruin the experience of the earlier story if the books are read out of sequence. That aside it is nice to follow Leo's life as he experiences it and becomes more used to his role as an unwilling adventurer.

I very much look forward to reading more of his exploits in future tales.
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This sequel to Alex Reeve's historical crime fiction series set in the Victorian era featuring Leo Stanhope reads considerably more fluently than the first, largely because the characters have become established in the setting of the London in this period. It is Leo and the predicament he finds himself that makes this series worth reading, for he was born Charlotte 'Lottie' Pritchard, the daughter of a vicar and father he has been estranged from for many years. These are dangerous times to be transgender, if he is exposed, he will lose everything and will be incarcerated in an asylum and face deadly 'medical' experiments. After the horror of previous events, Leo has been living quietly, working in the hospital morgue, and living with Alfie and his daughter, 12 year old Constance, who provide him with an alternative family. His life is disrupted when the police arrive and he is taken to an Anarchists Club for radicals, the scene of the murder of Dora Hannigan, who had a card with his name on it.

Leo had met Dora earlier with her two children, Aiden and Ciara, asking for credit at Alfie's shop. He denies knowing her, but bumps into a man he knows, John Thackery. John knew him as Lottie, and recognises him instantly, and then proceeds to blackmail Leo to provide him with a false alibi. Leo has no choice but to comply as he finds himself trying to look after and protect Dora's children from the dangers they face. Ciara had seen her mother being murdered by a 'lion' and is suffering from recurring night fits. Sir Reginald Thackery, a man with a huge sense of entitlement and power runs a mill by the river which exploits its workers and endangers their lives and health. John Thackery hates his father and has been working with other radicals to bring down his father. However, this is a time when the powerful industrialists have the power to use the police to bring down those who fight for the rights of workers. Leo looks for a murderer in this most twisted of stories, as he once again connects with and works with mother and baker, Rosie Flowers, a woman who needs a more meaningful life, and is driven by her hatred of injustice to help Leo. 

This is a dark and disturbing story of family secrets, murders, sibling rivalries, and a Victorian London where the rich and powerful are ruthlessly determined to maintain their influence by maintaining the existing economic, social and political order. The likes of Sir Reginald convince themselves of their superiority and right to power by their self serving co-option of Darwin's theories of evolution, as they dismiss the poor and deny rights to their workers. Leo finds himself confronting a terminally ill father who bears no resemblance to the man he knew, and his sister, Jane, continues to refuse to accept him as Leo. This is a wonderfully compelling read, historical fiction that draws the reader in easily, and with characters that you come to care about. I am looking forward to the next in the series. Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC.
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A really good Victorian yarn - full of action and uncertainty about the culprit.  I loved the House on Half Moon Street as well and this book did not disappoint.  
It's hard to understand the feelings of the hero/heroine but you do become fascinated with the character. I guess there may be a third book soon and I am very much looking forward to this
Not to be missed
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This is the second book in the Leo Stanhope series, and if you haven’t read the first one yet, The House on Half Moon Street, then please do, because you are missing out on a great book.

Leo gets called to identify the body of a woman who has been buried in the midst of a burrow of rooms and hallways that harbour a group of anarchists. His first instinct is to lie and his second one is to worry about who wasn’t found with the corpse.

Leo and Rosie end up as a sleuthing duo again in this story, although their relationship is quite rocky. Leo finds it difficult to forgive Rosie for what happened to Leo in that room. They need to have clarification on why Leo feels so betrayed. Not that it was her fault that they ended up there, but perhaps it has more to do with seeing his vulnerable side and being a witness to the worst thing that could possibly happen to Leo or Rosie. She has seen his shame, but then wasn’t she the one who opened that door?

The premise is absolutely refreshing. Reeve wants the reader to understand the limitations for transgender people in this particular era, which can’t really be compared to those in the 21st century. Although, to be completely fair there are still plenty of countries with laws comparable to those in the dark ages.

It’s historical crime fiction with a compelling main character. Reeve has a natural flair for crime and for telling a story. This isn’t a writer who has decided to throw in a transgender character to shake a genre up or be in vogue. He has created a main character with longevity and potential, and it certainly wouldn’t work if he wasn’t such a talented scribe. Luckily he is, which hopefully means we will be hearing a lot more from Reeve in the future.
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