Carl checks out Arlene Hunt‘s ‘No Escape’ and discovers a compelling thriller
Those of you who regularly read the articles I write for The Future Of The Force would be forgiven if they believed that I read nothing but film books, reference guides, and books dedicated to certain franchises or genres. I don’t. I read whatever interests me. One genre that I really enjoy reading about is the gangland scene and the underworld stories from authors like Martina Cole (who I totally adore and admire), Caz Finlay, Kimberley Chambers, and Jacqui Rose. I don’t know why but these female authors seem to know exactly what makes a terrific tale, one that grips us and has us turning the pages, breathless to know what’s going to happen next and how the story will resolve itself and how it ends. Now, I can add Arlene Hunt to that esteemed list. I have to admit I was unaware of her and her novels until I found the synopsis of her latest novel ‘No Escape‘ to be one that has me aching to read it. Ms. Hunt is an Irish novelist and her new book is the tenth in her career. And to boot, it is a rather topical tale that almost seems as if it has been ripped from the news headlines that very day.
No Escape | by Arlene Hunt
The story goes like this: Two sisters, Yulia and Celestine, the younger of the two and mute are part of a group of immigrants who are snuck into Ireland illegally in the back of a truck by members of the Ward family. The Wards are a group of nefarious men and women who have their fingers in many of the illegal pies that form the Irish underworld. Drug dealing, drug manufacturing, brothels, people trafficking, you name it, they are into it. Yulia and Celestine are separated from each other with Yulia sent to Lakeside, the private members club run by Mariposa Ward, the wife of Arthur Ward, the head of the Ward family alongside the mansion manager, Stefan, a wig-wearing weasel of a man, to become an escort and sex slave. Her sister is given a job of minding a warehouse in which the family is growing Cannabis for distribution and sale. Both young women are devastated by the events they have been subjected to since arriving in Dublin but both realize that they little choice but to accept their fate for the time being.
At the twenty-first birthday party for a young woman named Shelly Astor, a fight breaks out between Liam Kennedy, Shelly’s former boyfriend, and Arthur Ward, who is her new one. The Kennedy’s are another underworld family and have been at war with the Wards for many years. Arthur Ward is hit several times, leaving him with bruising on his face. He calls up Francis ‘Stonewall’ McCabe, Mariposa’s brother, and his brother-in-law to come and pick him up. Arthur asks if he can stay at Stonewall’s home for the night as it is now in the early hours and he doesn’t fancy going home to Mariposa, a request that Stonewall agrees to. However, on their way home, they realize they are being followed by another car. This leads to a chase through the streets, only ending when Stonewall has an accident, clipping the rear bumper of a taxi that pulls out in front of him, leading him to crash the car. The occupants of the car chasing them get out of their vehicle and shoot both Stonewall and Arthur, injuring Stonewall but executing Arthur at point-blank range.
The youngest of the Kennedys, Leo, has been dumped by his girlfriend while living in England. He decides to seek solace at the bottom of a bottle which doesn’t end so well for him. Now single and jobless, he despairs of how things have turned out for him. That is until he discovers that his great-aunt Gina, someone who has never really spoken to him or had anything to do with him has died and left her entire estate to him. Returning to Dublin to complete the necessary paperwork and to take possession of Gina’s ashes to grant her wish of scattering them, Leo meets his only friend Eddie Lynch, a tall woman with purple hair who is picking him up from the airport. Eddie is dating a woman by the name of Dom, who detests Leo with a passion. Gina has left Leo with a building which although rundown and dilapidated, Leo decides to spruce up and turns into a restaurant. Along the way, his brother Pat makes himself known again. Leo and his Father, Frank have had a major falling out years ago, hence why Leo has left Ireland behind and moved to England before returning to attend to Gina’s last will and testament. Meanwhile, the Wards are looking for the culprits behind Arthur’s murder and are looking for Liam Kennedy in particular. This is the lead up to shocking events, revelations, and a reckoning that is a long time coming.
Being Irish herself, Arlene Hunt knows every nook and cranny when it comes to her subject matter and her locations and she uses it to excellent effect throughout the book. The twists and turns keep coming thick and fast and just when you think you have a handle on what’s going to happen, she pulls the rug out from under you and moves the story in a totally new direction that you didn’t even consider. And it is to her immense credit that the book is as thrilling, compelling, and as deep as it is. Family loyalties are tested as they usually are but you become invested in these characters from the off. Some you hope to see get their overdue comeuppance, some you hope will live to see the end of the novel, some you hope will meet an extremely nasty end and some you just can’t help but like from the first time you meet them on the page. It is refreshing to read a story that has you invested in the characters from the off and it is managed here with ease. The plot threads that seem separate at the start all converge into a single strand by the end and I can safely say that no-one gets away scot-free. Every character will have something happen to them by the time the final words enter the readers’ mind and everyone will be changed in one way or another. Friendships and family ties will lie in tatters as the story reaches a shocking and unexpected ending which I certainly didn’t see coming. As I said near the start of this review, this is Arlene Hunt’s tenth book. Based on what I’ve read in this impressive novel, I’m certainly going to hunt down and read the previous nine she has written.
Arlene Hunt, you’ve just found yourself a brand new fan.
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!