A Last Act Of Charity is a truly unique reading experience. The author, Frank Westworth, injects style, pace and energy into a witty, thrilling, and sometimes sickening story. The plot is mainly driven by independent snoop, contract killer, VW van / Harley-Davidson enthusiast, master blues guitarist, frequent drinker and the very pragmatic JJ Stoner. With such a resume, needless to say Stoner is an interesting man and he delivers a brutal and gutsy performance.
Stoner shares wise words of advice after emerging the victor in what was a one-sided coffee shop brawl: “‘His ankle’s broken. It will need setting. His nose is broken. It’ll be fine, but it will be hard to breathe through it for a while. It would be a kindness to take him to a medic, or call for one.’ Silence. Bewilderment. The invincible superiority of youth facing the demonstrable superiority of a single older man.”
The cool, often emotionless Stoner takes you on a roller coaster of a ride right until the very end. And when you think all is over in this murky and very graphic underworld, it’s not: Stoner is set to star again as the blunt but witty anti-hero of two more novels. A Last Act Of Charity is the first book of what is known as the Killing Sister trilogy (he already features in two short stories: First Contract and Two Wrongs – currently available in ebook).
If Stoner isn’t colourful enough for you, then rest assured the remaining cast provides plenty of crazy and unforgettable moments. The characters of this novel are so zany that you might either end up laughing out loud or re-reading segments to make sure that some of the weird and fascinating scenes (sometimes involving strange women and unconventional sexual acts) weren’t figments of your own imagination. Their encounters with Stoner are entertaining, funny, perhaps even tragic, but always interesting. And you are also guaranteed clever and punchy dialogue.
The three sisters and the trail of dead bodies and blood they leave behind was riveting storytelling. Even the more secondary characters fit in well and help the plot in their manner. You have the return of an old army comrade, threatening Stoner on his turf; there’s also Stoner’s unofficial employer, simply known as The Hard Man. Finally you have the women, who have important roles in Stoner’s world and provide their fair share of tongue-in-cheek moments. In a nutshell, you’re never quite sure whether Stoner’s network is composed of friends or enemies, or whether their intentions are of the dubious kind.
Not only does Westworth add depth to his characters, he enjoys weaving in his passion for blues and motorcycles as interludes to the story, albeit maybe a little too much at times if you don’t share such interests. A minor hiccup (although you may not agree with me) in what is otherwise a riveting first novel.