Priest of Bones by Peter Mclean

What a bloody whirlwind read this has been!! This is the first book this year I’ve picked up and finished within 24 hours. I could not put it down.

It’s gangster fantasy, and if such a thing doesn’t exist, well it does now. Tomas Piety, formerly head of the organised crime outfit known as The Pious Boys, has returned from the war into which he and every other man of fighting age was conscripted, to find his streets empty and dangerous, his businesses under new management and his Aunt taking refuge in a nunnery for which she is clearly ill-suited. For Thomas the name of the game is simple. Get his businesses back, keep his men in line and onside, deal with his scarred brother who has his own gang and return the small town he once dominated to the kingdom he always saw it as. His morality is established quite early in the book when he kills one of his men who is about to force himself on a woman. Whether he is killed for the attempted act or twice questioning the order not to act is one of the questions that lingered in my mind when trying to figure out where Tomas sits on the scale of good and evil.

Tomas demands respect and rules his men by drawing a very clear line in the sand and dishing out harsh consequences for those that step over it. He is very much like a mafia godfather, collecting taxes for protection, suffering no fools and focusing on maintaining control of himself and his interests at all time. At the same time his entire existence is ruled and regulated by the women around him. Bloody Anne is his best friend, most loyal solider and his second in charge, his Aunt Enaid is the matriarch of the family and the alluring Ailsa who seems to be more intelligent, skilled and cunning than all of them put together. I loved this element of the story and it was made very clear that this confident and powerful man would not be either of those things without the women beside him.

There is a large cast of heavies and hired goons, some of which receive lots of characterisation and some of them are simply red shirts, being held back in the story so that the home side can suffer some losses at the appropriate moment. I liked the way Mclean did a list of these characters at the start but not so much that he used actual lines from later in the book to describe them. It left me feeling like he was repeating himself at times when he really wasn’t. It’s a small gripe and one that was more obvious to me because I read the book so quickly that there was literally no need to go over any piece of information a second time.

Overall this was an absolute beast of a book. I loved it and so cannot help but highly recommend it. I will be getting the sequel Priest of Lies when it is released on July 2nd. 10/10

Thanks to the wonderful people at Ace Books for hooking me up with a copy

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