Cover Image: Holy City

Holy City

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Member Reviews

Euphoria, Virginia is the setting for a debut Southern gothic-style contemporary mystery. Will Seems is the young deputy sheriff haunted by a past that he desperately would wish to change. In the present day, he discovers a burning house with dead man inside. He knows the victim and spies a man fleeing the scene, that he believes is innocent. The Sheriff has other thoughts. But Will is on a mission to atone for his past and make sure the innocent man is treated justly. The plot descends into areas of race, privilege, and class weighed down by personalities trapped in their own history, obligations, and mindset. The descriptions of the small town, bordering the Holy City of Richmond (where new life may be possible) is vividly rendered. Feel the sweat, hear the bugs and birds, smell the earth…. covering whatever crime and desperation lie below.
Hope the author is writing his next book. Recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher and to S.A. Cosby for pointing the way.

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Henry Wise's superb debut is a Southern novel is less a mystery, but more a beautifully detailed and richly described picture of complex flawed characters, small town communities, and the history and location of Euphoria County, a remote part of Virginia, left behind by a thriving Richmond that has moved on. Returning after 10 years, Will Seems, is living in his ironically named The Promised Land, a dilapidated family home, burdened by guilt, the suffocating shared community history, marked by a state of defeat, inherited and self inflicted, of race and slavery. Will feels 'the American dream had been built on second chances, though he knew many never had a first', he is a Deputy Sheriff at loggerheads with his boss, Sheriff Jeff Mills.

Will is at the scene of the burning house of his friend, Tom Janders, pulling his dead body from his home, Mills charges an innocent man, Zeke Hathom, of murder. Will owes a huge debt to Zeke, his family and particularly his son, Sam, who paid a heavy price for defending Will when he was younger. Although he has deep reservations, he reluctantly ends up working with a black PI hired by Floressa and Claudette, Bennica Watts, a woman who has no problem in crossing lines if they help in uncovering the truth and securing justice. We get a feel for the landscape of crime and poverty, the Snakefoot wilderness, the abandoned boarded up homes, tobacco plantations, as Will and Watts hunt for the real killer, often in conflict as they make progress.

Will is riddled with trauma, grief and an inner pain, the wounds embedded deep within him, trapped by guilt and his past. This is a captivating gritty read, of hatred, love, hurt, loss, addiction, loyalty, shame, secrets, violence, brutality, the forgotten, and a list, and of emotional quagmires of entanglements and relationships. There is a bleak darkness that runs through the gripping narrative with its well constructed, and well developed wide ranging cast of small town characters, none of these realistic individuals are free, and none can easily be categorised as either hero or villain. The light comes in the form of the intricate strong bonds, the need and drive for justice depite all the obstacles, and redemption. A wonderful read that I have no hesitation in highly recommending! Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

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Really enjoyed this book. Thanks to NetGalley, publishers and author for this well-written freshman effort by Henry Wise. Looking forward to his works to come!

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Haunting, poignant, disturbing…beautiful. Stunned after reading Holy City - excellent Southern fiction. Thank you Henry Wise for this amazing story.

Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the opportunity to read this ARC.

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With a blurb from S.A. Crosby, how could you pass this book up?
Holy City is the freshman effort of Henry Wise. The story focuses on Will Seems who returns home to his rural roots in Virginia after he left following a tragedy. Seems is going to be a deputy sheriff in the poor area filled equally with plantations and old school relationships. Seems owes a favor to a friend and it becomes clear when another friend is murder. Can Seems keep his moral compass as well as work with the newly hired Bennico? A well thought out novel that it gritty and complex. Recommended!
#groveatlantic #holycity #henrywise

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3.75 stars rounded up. The only reason I grabbed this one was the blurb from S.A. Cosby. If that man wrote nutrition labels I’d read them, so praise from him goes far in my world.

Luckily this didn’t disappoint. A gritty, dark tale full of imperfect characters and some very dark subject matter.

My only complaint is at times the writing seemed a bit choppy and often I wished Wise would provide additional context. I feel like race was a somewhat important component in the story, but it took me a while to establish the characters backgrounds which could be important to the situations they were facing. I feel like Wise could’ve added additional subtle characterization to clarify. Also, at times, the character perspective or time would shift and I’d have to backpedal to ensure I was understanding properly.

Overall this was a wonderful debut. I definitely look forward to seeing what Wise puts out going forward.

I received an advance review copy for free from NetGalley and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Holy City was a great read! I hope Henry Wise decides to write a sequel. Even though the book wrapped up nicely, I want to know what happens next. For me, that’s a sign of a great book!

I loved meeting the complex characters, and the story itself was interesting and entertaining. At times, however, the writing was a little too verbose for my taste and I could have done without the extraneous words. That said, this was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this book.

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I enjoyed this novel very much. It was southern noir at its finest. I am hoping this is a first in a series. Great characters. Great plot.

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Hopefully this is the start of a series. Brutal both in it's honesty and depiction of the violence that alters lives. Well-drawn characters with the verisimilitude of family members, people the reader will know intimately. Will Seems, the main character, is one I hope to see more of in the future. A deputy in a Southern police department in Virginia that is led by a sheriff with more than a few dark stains on his soul. But there's even redemptive aspects to the sheriff, which is Henry Wise's super power. He doesn't paint any character in tropes, but with the depth and nuance, again, of real people. The plot doesn't matter as much as the sentence-level beautiful writing and the depth of characterizations I keep mentioning, but the story starts with a dead body, a fire meant to burn away the evidence of foul play, and a clearly innocent man being charged for the murder. The ride to discovering the truth of what happened is a wild one, and well worth the effort in what is at times a slow-burn of a book. Recommended!

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Stunning. If there was one word to describe this fantastic debut, stunning. Will Seems, I sure hope there is more of him. Please read this important novel.

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