Plot: Combining elements of classic rivalry tales and military thrillers, Clifford's War serves up a riveting storyline.
Prose: Reed's prose is even-handed, clear, and effectively serves the plot.
Originality: While perhaps not wholly original, Reed introduces a high-stakes circumstances, placing his protagonist in great peril and requiring him to rely on his military expertise and abilities to understand the enemy, in order to escape and restore order to his life.
Character/Execution: The characterization in the novel is among its strongest points. Reed takes the time and effort needed to delve into the layers of the primary characters, leading to intriguing dimensions and revelations along the way.
Date Submitted: May 06, 2022
Powered by thrills, Reed’s story surges from one development to the next. In the span of roughly 50 pages one can find cover-up assassinations, an investigation regarding an unfaithful spouse, and corruption within the district attorney’s office and the police department. The swiftness of the storytelling may occasionally leave readers needing to reread a paragraph or two, but the details are all simple to master, with the plotting not as complex as some mysteries rely upon. What you see is what you get with Clifford’s War, even as Reed weaves together multiple story threads–a coup-d'etat on a local crime family, or Dee discovering his newest friend has a cousin involved in the business–into a compelling whole.
Everything comes together with clear purpose after the numerous dust-ups, a varied set of brawls, chases, and slayings that escalate in inventiveness as the book builds to its climax. “Once you have a liability, it will always be a liability no matter what,” Bandoni explains after a classic crime-boss speech about foxes and a chicken coop. As Clifford’s War follows those liabilities and their brutal consequences, Reed reminds readers who love rough-and-tumble crime novels that sometimes simplicity is the highest form of eloquence.
Takeaway: Crime thriller fans who favor gritty anti-heroes and quick action over slow deliberation will find this a winning choice.
Great for fans of: Glenn Dyer, Lee Child.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A
J. Denison Reed's Debut Novel, Clifford's War: The Bluegrass Battleground was submitted to a Book of the Year contest on OnlineBookclub and won the honors of their C/T/M/H (Crime Thriller Mystery Horror) category book of the year for 2021.