I had an odd reaction to this book. I’m not a big fan of borrowed worlds, enjoy only select mysteries, and hate joining a series partway through. This book takes place in J. M. Barrie’s Neverland, is about a hardbitten detective (the sole survivor of Captain Hook’s crew of pirates), and is definitely a sequel. At the same time, Handman is a very smooth, engaging writer, and while I didn’t love the setting, the book mostly works.
Regarding Neverland, I never warmed to the idea; I just don’t see any need for it. Handman could have achieved the same effect with his own world, and had more freedom (and originality, obviously). Neverland just doesn’t play a necessary role in the story. We get some of the protagonist’s backstory, and there’s pixie dust, but nothing that’s indispensable. I still think he’d have been better off in his own world. If you love Neverland, you may be thrilled. On the other hand, it’s a pretty dystopian Neverland; maybe you won’t.
This has the definite feel of a sequel. While Goodreads, at least, names the series differently (the first book appears to be Crocodile Tears), there’s not question that quite a bit has gone before, and that there are characters the reader may already have met. To his credit, though, Handman does a very smooth job of providing context, and this is more a complete, self-contained book with a few connecting threads than a bridge book. I had no trouble following along, despite knowing nothing about the series.
The mystery part is where it gets interesting. I like the occasional mystery, but as a genre, I can take it or leave it. Handman, though, does a very good job of keeping the suspense and tension high, largely because he interweaves it with strongly engaging characters. He gives a nod to the protagonist’s dark past, but overall he’s sympathetic, and the other key characters, if somewhat stock in type, are well developed. The book kept me interested, and was a quick read almost all the way to the end. Almost, because unfortunately the end is very thin – a disappointment after the strength of the rest of the book. And just to hammer the point home, Handman ends the book with a clumsy wrap-up epilogue that shouldn’t have been necessary at all. It mostly isn’t, and just making a few points clear in the earlier narrative would have made it possible to drop the epilogue entirely, making the book much, much stronger.
I don’t see picking up any other Everland mysteries, but I will keep an eye open and hope that Handman writes something else in his own world.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.