#IndieSpotlight is a new feature we’ve added to the FCBF portfolio for 2021. In truth, I can’t believe we’ve not done so earlier as there’s so much fine work from #WritingCommunity being independently published.
We’re especially delighted to kick off the feature with one of our favourite writers Iain Kelly. David & I each discovered (quite separately) Iain’s work during 2017’s April A-Z Challenge, and were among the many participants lining up each day to read the next instalment of his Scandi-Noir detective tale. Despite being a prolific writer of quality #flashfiction on his website, having a demanding job as a television editor, and being father to lively twins, Iain has written and published The State Trilogy – releasing a book a year for the past three years.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the trilogy and would recommend that you add all three books to your To Be Read lists, no matter how dangerous its size. While trying to avoid any significant spoilers, I hope the following gives you a taste of what to expect…
A Justified State (The State Trilogy Book 1)
This is my favourite of the trilogy – it’s where we’re introduced to world-weary detective Danny Samson and his keen as mustard partner Henrik James, but also to the world they inhabit. Setting the scene, Iain draws a vivid picture of the physical conditions : “Intricate sculptures and carvings of caryatids and coats of arms adorned the exterior, weathered but unbowed. Balconies had long since crumbled away. Huge ornate glass windows had been replaced by wooden boards or gaping voids. The whole street lay crumpled and defeated in the moonlight. Protected status for architectural heritage meant the buildings had remained, but they served no purpose.”
The minutiae of daily living conditions would be familiar to those currently forced to live in rundown and unmaintained tower blocks, as would the mixture of feelings – those of frustration, helplessness and stoic acceptance. The difference is that, in the State, this is how the majority of the population lives rather than the disenfranchised minority.
The State itself is a powerful presence throughout the book. A fine example of the best of intentions gone wrong – although poverty and homelessness have been eradicated, climate change has developed into a full blown energy crisis, with overpopulation and war still ever present.
I very much enjoyed the growing relationship between the disparate characters of Danny and Henrik as they investigate the murder of a politician, so the dramatic unravelling provided a genuine gut punch.
Iain has given us a quality blend of detective tale and political thriller, playing it out against the backdrop of an all too believable dystopian future.
State of Denial (The State Trilogy Book 2)
Book 2 moves away from detective tale into full-blown dystopian thriller, opening with new character Max. A keen, young journalist working for the only remaining (semi) independent newspaper, she ends up on the wrong side the Party after asking unsanctioned questions. Through her eyes, we get to see just how much the State is manipulating the public via their control of the media and constant surveillance of the populace. Doggedly pursuing her story, Max gets steadily drawn into the burgeoning rebellion.
In the years since Book 1 ended, ex-cop Danny has been living in in the wilderness. Moving around, trying to survive, he finally finds a community where he feels he can put some some form of roots. Until, that is, he decides to undertake a quest to return to the city in order to save the life of a young boy. During this portion of the book, we become really close to Danny, living in his pocket, getting to see the principled man behind the world-weary (now ex) cop, and how those values guide his actions.
The two threads come together once Danny completes his quest and is reunited with Gabriela and Phillips. Gabriela – ex special operative and assassin, and Phillips – shady character playing both sides for his own ends, are part of the myriad forces making up the rebellion. The rebellion is growing, and the flashpoint at the end of Book 2 is a masterstroke of cynicism, demonstrating how nothing (and no-one) is ever all good (or bad).
State of War (The State Trilogy Book 3)
The flashpoint at the end of Book 2 inevitably leads to war between the State and the rebellion. The rebellion are painted by the State as being unpatriotic for forcing them to fight on two fronts – both home and overseas. Added into the mix is Phillips, who now leads the Independents in a fight to bring down the State.
But Danny and Gabriela know what he’s done, and so they’re fighting both. Their force is small, constantly on the run, building alliances with those they can trust, and sometimes with those they can’t… and yet have to. The State and the Independents are both prepared to sacrifice innocent lives – Danny isn’t. Even when there’s an offer of an escape and a new life with a new family, he’s driven to do the right thing – to put his life at risk for the greater good.
In this book, the key relationship is that between Danny and Gabriela, and Iain smoothly depicts how their contrasting personalities and values require continual negotiation in how they take the fight to the State and the Independents.
Personally, I was so pleased to see the return of Henrik; although he is never named, readers of previous books will know it’s him. Iain shows us a broken anonymous man fighting with his demons in a manner that is both believable and hugely poignant.
This book provides an action-packed finale, with taut and well-paced action sequences allowing you to feel the sense of urgency and danger throughout. A most fitting end to the Trilogy.
The Trilogy is available from a range of sellers worldwide – Iain’s website provides full details here.
I understand from Iain that his next project is already underway, and it will no doubt will also be making a strong case for inclusion on my TBR list once it’s ready.
© extract – Iain Kelly, 2021
© Debra Carey, 2021