Westside

Westside

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.New York is dying, and the one w...

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Title:Westside
Author:W.M. Akers
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Westside Reviews

  • Lauren Stoolfire

    Even though the Westside of Manhattan is a dangerous wasteland that is inhospitable to modern (1920s) technology, home to strange magic and many disreputable residents, Gilda is proud to call it her home. Gilda is in a way a detective who specializes in "tiny mysteries" - those impossible puzzles and that keep you awake at night and chip away at you; questions that can ruin marriages and friendships. These cases distract her from

    Even though the Westside of Manhattan is a dangerous wasteland that is inhospitable to modern (1920s) technology, home to strange magic and many disreputable residents, Gilda is proud to call it her home. Gilda is in a way a detective who specializes in "tiny mysteries" - those impossible puzzles and that keep you awake at night and chip away at you; questions that can ruin marriages and friendships. These cases distract her from her own grief and the impossible question of how her father died. The investigation of her newest tiny mystery about a missing glove leads her to a massive conspiracy that may even connect to her father's death.

    by W.M. Akers is a marvelous debut historical fantasy novel. There's so much to love about this story. It has nearly everything I could have asked for. I particularly enjoyed the well-drawn cast of characters (there are a lot of them). Gilda herself is quite engaging. I certainly appreciated her strong will and bravery. The alternate 1921 Manhattan's Westside is practically a character in its own right as well. Akers' world building is great and very visual. The story could have benefited from a map, though, but perhaps there's one in the final edition. The mysteries are so much fun to puzzle out with Gilda, especially in a setting where things and people have been known to just disappear like they never were. The author also does a good job handling the breathless action and all of the twists and turns (there is a lot going on) that will keep you right on the edge of your seat.

    Overall,

    by W.M. Akers is a fast-paced debut that will keep you turning the pages to keep up with Gilda. I have a feeling you will like the author's brand of historical fantasy with an engaging mystery and fully formed characters if you're a fan of Neil Gaiman and

    by Caleb Carr. I can't wait to see what this author does next!

  • Will Byrnes

    Gilda Carr is a young woman who looks into what she calls “tiny mysteries.” Leave those murders for someone else. Big mysteries mean big problems and Gilda has had enough of those. Her mom died when she was a kid, and her father, one Virgil Carr, aka “Clubber” was not only the founder of a notorious Westsid

    Gilda Carr is a young woman who looks into what she calls “tiny mysteries.” Leave those murders for someone else. Big mysteries mean big problems and Gilda has had enough of those. Her mom died when she was a kid, and her father, one Virgil Carr, aka “Clubber” was not only the founder of a notorious Westside gang, he later became a notorious cop, vanishing in a notorious disappearance some years back.

    - image from SqueakyBicycleProductions

    Speaking of vanishing, in this magical reimagining of the Manhattan of 1921, considerable bits of the island have been doing just that. Odd objects, coffee pots, stairway railings, entire buildings are being swallowed up by

    . This is not totally new. Akers notes an apocryphal 1628 letter from early arrival Peter Minuit about the oddity of the west side of this newly colonized island. (

    ) Things tend to degrade faster, rust races instead of creeps. Machines cease working. Guns fail, automobiles sputter. The trees do pretty well, though, growing tall and fast. Streets become streams instead of the other way around. Occasional waterfalls form and descend from rooftops. It is where Gilda lives. In a brownstone facing Washington Square Park (mom came from money).

    - image from Corbin Plays

    And then there is the increasing vanishing of humanity. Enough so that when over three thousand people went pffft! on the Westside in 1914, thirteen miles of fence was erected down Broadway to separate the Westside from the rest of Manhattan. Not her problem. She can get back and forth through the security gates readily enough.

    Gilda is engaged by one Edith Copeland. It seems Mrs Copeland had mislaid a glove, one of a pair her oft-absent husband had given her as a gift. She would like the glove found and returned, as she does not want to face awkward questions about its absence. But in this version of New York, tiny mysteries have a way of leading to very large questions, and Gilda’s gumshoeing leads her to a very, very dark side of the city.

    - Image from Patch.com

    The action is non-stop, rising to breathless as we near the end. Sleep is in short supply for Gilda, in inverse proportion to exhaustion and perpetual movement. There is a pretty neat explanation for it all, but don’t think about it too hard. Just roll with it. Gilda is a particularly appealing hero. Not just for the expected intelligence, wit, and derring do, (a hair gel for heroes?) but for being a fan of the New York Giants baseball team. I imagine Akers’ work in creating a game,

    , might have been mined for this part of Gilda’s profile. Greasing the wheels of forward plot movement, Gilda picks up a few more tiny mysteries to solve, which lead to other leads. Delightful, this element.

    This stop is on your route – image from

    and

    kept running through my head as Akers introduces colorful character after colorful character. Underworld sorts, of both the thuggish and white shoe varieties, loom large in this landscape. And the baddies balance out very nicely between hims and hers, leadership and field force. There is bootlegging, gun-running, (sins of the fleshier sort are kept on the down-low here), arson, assault, kidnapping, police corruption, and the odd murder. Plenty of dark deeds to keep the juices flowing.

    - image from

    Akers offers a wonderful portrait of what Manhattan might look like if part of it was stuck in some version of the Victorian age, while the other part had moved on to the next century, and if raging against the dying of the light were made into a nice business opportunity. He makes fun use of a variety of Manhattan landmarks, and notes others in passing, in case anyone wanted to structure a walking tour. Bex Red, an artist, lives in a singularly narrow building. A train station and its associated tunnels has been put to alternate use, as has one of the city’s most famous theaters. Penn Station is not what it was. (It still isn’t) A seaman’s hotel, notable for being a place where some of the survivors of the Titanic were put up, remains a going concern. A police precinct noted here is still in operation. A socially conscious village church is given a trot or two across the stage. Such things may be fun for non-Noo Yawkahs, but are an absolute delight for us natives.

    - image from The Shubert Organization

    - It seemed that there were occasional bits that did not compute. For example, the next day after a particularly large vanishing, Gilda heads to Ebbett’s Field in Brooklyn for reasons that were inexplicable, to me, anyway. Did I miss something here? I found Akers’ explanation for the underlying goings-on less than entirely persuasive. And I thought Gilda’s solution to a particularly dark situation required a rather large leap of faith.

    But I would not worry too much about all that. Fact is, this was a wonderful read. Fast-paced, engaging, with an appealing lead, a creative take on a fantastical alternate Manhattan, a very colorful supporting cast, and plenty of twists and turns. You might need to catch your breath a bit after you put this one down. Gilda Carr may be in the business of solving tiny mysteries, but reading

    is nothing less than HUGE fun.

    - image from NY.Curbed.com

    Review posted – May 10, 2019

    Publication date – May 7, 2019

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    Links to the author’s

    and

    pages

    -----Interview - NPR -

    by Scott Simon

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    - Yes, I know the actual title is

    , but the stretch seemed worth it.

    I seem to have come across (and reviewed) a fair number of novels in the last few years in which a

    offers a setting, and I am aware of at least two more in my personal pipeline coming up. Here are the ones I could think of

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  • ❆Francesca (Mother of Cats) Selina❆

    *I received an ARC from he publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a review.*

    A quirky mystery set in a grim Manhattan full of colorful and intriguing characters.

    Gilda, the protagonist, is fierce, ruthless, b

    *I received an ARC from he publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for a review.*

    A quirky mystery set in a grim Manhattan full of colorful and intriguing characters.

    Gilda, the protagonist, is fierce, ruthless, blunt, brave...she’s the perfect embodiment of the Westside. She’s the (at times) anti hero you can’t resist rooting for.

    Beside her there is a huge assemble of secondary characters, each of them well developed and full of personality, ideals and different morals.

    The story takes place in a Manhattan divided by a fence after the mass disappearance of people.

    The Eastside is what we would consider “normal” while the a Westside has been invaded by magic which has warped the landscape and the rules of nature: it’s a gritty place full of rough people that take the “hit first, question later” motto as a life rule.

    The plot involves a mystery, one that starts small and almost inconsequential but turns into something big, with huge implications and consequences.

    It brings to the light the ultimate mystery of why the Westside is slowly dying, a question that no one has been able to answer...so far.

    The author masterfully weaves multiple threads and creates a multilayered story full of three dimensional characters.

    The writing fully describes the bleakness of the ambient but doesn’t shy away from sprinkling in moments of happiness and lightheartedness.

    The language isn’t very flowery or artistic but I felt that it worked beautifully with Gilda’s personality.

    If you enjoy historical semi-fantasies and intriguing mysteries with great characters behind it, you need to pick this up, W. M. Rakers definitely grabbed my attention and I cannot wait to see what will come next.

  • Megan Lyons

    I've been done this for about a week, but I've been struggling with writing a review. I know this was a fairly strong book. The writing was good. There were some fabulous, smart lines, both in dialogue and in the general text. The world building was interesting and consistent. The main character was odd; to me she read a bit like an anti hero with some of her actions, but she was quirky and still sympathetic. There were also some larger than life side characters. It had an interesting meld of ur

    I've been done this for about a week, but I've been struggling with writing a review. I know this was a fairly strong book. The writing was good. There were some fabulous, smart lines, both in dialogue and in the general text. The world building was interesting and consistent. The main character was odd; to me she read a bit like an anti hero with some of her actions, but she was quirky and still sympathetic. There were also some larger than life side characters. It had an interesting meld of urban fantasy detective story and alternate history, giving it quite an original feel. All in all it was really well done, and I feel like I should have liked it more. However, I just couldn't really get into the story, and I kept putting it down and reading other stuff.

    I think the way I read the book may have done a disservice to it- I started it at the airport and read it throughout a vacation, while I had a fever. The combination of being sick and being busy on my vacation had me reading in little spurts, so this no doubt impacted my experience reading it. Even so, I can't seem to put my finger on what kept me from getting into the narrative. So all in all, this was a solid book that I just couldn't quite connect with.

    *I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books and Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review*

  • Valentina

    A lot certainly happens in this novel. Lots of people fight, die, disappear, reappear, argue; there are lots of locations, with clever worldbuilding that is, I think, the strongest part of the novel. The problem is that the plot is not particularly engrossing. I found myself bored, my mind wandering off even while my eyes continued to read. That is never a good sign for me.

    Neither the protagonist nor her conflicts were very interesting, unfortunately. There were some pacing issues, as well, tha

    A lot certainly happens in this novel. Lots of people fight, die, disappear, reappear, argue; there are lots of locations, with clever worldbuilding that is, I think, the strongest part of the novel. The problem is that the plot is not particularly engrossing. I found myself bored, my mind wandering off even while my eyes continued to read. That is never a good sign for me.

    Neither the protagonist nor her conflicts were very interesting, unfortunately. There were some pacing issues, as well, that made some scene confusing and muddled. This is also the fault of not having strongly defined characters. In some scenes where the dialogue was not clearly marked, it was tough to know who was speaking, and that is always because the characters do not have clear "voices".

    As I said, the worldbuilding was strong, and mainly why I kept reading. Still, I'm not sure I would necessarily recommend it to others.

  • Linda

    Westside has more thick, juicy layers than a weighty feast at a New York deli.

    Let's lift the crusty bread on this one.....

    Gilda Carr dabbles in tiny mysteries and likes it that way. The smaller, the quicker, the better. It's September of 1921 in Washington Square and she's headed to Manhattan. Edith Copeland, wife of Galen Copeland who owns a shipping firm along the river, has hired her to find a missing ladies leather glove. The gloves were an unexpected gift from her husband and she lost one w

    Westside has more thick, juicy layers than a weighty feast at a New York deli.

    Let's lift the crusty bread on this one.....

    Gilda Carr dabbles in tiny mysteries and likes it that way. The smaller, the quicker, the better. It's September of 1921 in Washington Square and she's headed to Manhattan. Edith Copeland, wife of Galen Copeland who owns a shipping firm along the river, has hired her to find a missing ladies leather glove. The gloves were an unexpected gift from her husband and she lost one while shopping. Sounds like a doable for petite Gilda Carr.

    While on the hunt, Gilda spots what seems to be an exact match in a small shop in Thieves' Market on the Eastside. She slips the single glove into her bag as she walks toward the door. The owner is on to her and he is just about breathing down her neck as she hits the sidewalk. In hot pursuit the owner is joined by others as Gilda barely makes it to the gates of the Westside. The men stop in their tracks. No one enters into the darkness of the Westside unless you're looking for trouble. No one except the likes of Gilda with that glove. And that single glove is the makings for some big time crime in New York City.

    Westside grabbed me by the collar from the get-go with the main character of Gilda Carr. The dialogue was crisp and biting and the atmosphere was nicely sullied with bits of reality here. W.M. Akers lines this story with the impact of gang life with boys not out of short pants carrying bloody sticks. It's also the Prohibition Era with bootlegging and booze wars happening around every corner. We have dedicated police and those on the take. There are businessmen with smut on their sleeves and a city divided into sunlight and darkness.

    It was all there in Westside. But then W.M. Akers couldn't quite put down his shovel. There were just too many incidents and too many characters on the loose. More is just more. It seemed that Gilda Carr had taken too, too many bites out of the Big Apple. Some fine-tuning and editing should have pared down the last chapters. I still have hope for Gilda Carr if there is another book in this series. Just take the essence of the beginning of the book and hold it steady in the next.

    I received a copy of Westside through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Harper Collins and to W.M. Akers for the opportunity.

  • Faith

    I didn’t like the book, but I absolutely hated the narration of the audio book.

  • Lisa Wolf

    After an initially interesting premise, the story bogs down in the middle. I ended up skimming through the last third or so of the book -- it just did not hold my attention.

  • Hannah Greendale

    A flimsy mystery with all the pittfalls of a male author crafting an inauthentic female protagonist. Akers rarely provides a firm sense of place or atmosphere. Some interesting ideas simmering below the surface that never fully materialize.

    is imaginative at its best; half-baked and hollow at its worst.

  • Hélène Louise

    I'm very frustrated with this book,which I liked for many reasons but still had to give up at 40 %.

    There was absolutely nothing wrong about it, I appreciated the main character, the background was rather fascinating, as the idea of the heroine solving "tiny mysteries" as a job. I loved some funny metaphors and some witty dialogues.

    But alas the rhythm didn't agree with. At each chapter, at each different scene even, I had to make an effort, the kind of effort one does at the beginning of a new re

    I'm very frustrated with this book,which I liked for many reasons but still had to give up at 40 %.

    There was absolutely nothing wrong about it, I appreciated the main character, the background was rather fascinating, as the idea of the heroine solving "tiny mysteries" as a job. I loved some funny metaphors and some witty dialogues.

    But alas the rhythm didn't agree with. At each chapter, at each different scene even, I had to make an effort, the kind of effort one does at the beginning of a new read. I was always rather lost and had to concentrate to keep on with the story's thread.

    I still don't know is the problem was mine and mine only (it was quite a vicious cercle as I couldn't read much on the book in one go and kept switching to my others current reads) or if it was objectively a flaw. The only explanation I found was that a certain absence of perspective, all the book's aspects were spread out equitably: the background, the mystery, the heroine's history, all characters, main, secondary and in passing ones... my brain couldn't manage to understand which elements were important to remember and which I could let go. And as my memory is not my best feature...

    A shame as I don't like giving up reads I don't objectively dislike, especially Netgalley ones, but sometimes one must admit defeat!

    (I thus won't give any notation to the book, which I wish I could have finish, as it deserved).

    (I thank Netgalley and HarperCollins Publishers for sending me the ARC in exchange for my honest review)

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