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The noir elements that were such a strong feature of Alan’s last book, Hidden City, remain prevalent in Manifest Recall. Published by Grey Matter Press, Manifest Recall is an uppercut of a novella that is sure to loosen a few teeth.
I’m a big fan of Alan’s work and the novella is my favourite format to read. What happens when Baxter teams up with one of my favourite publishers? Magic, that’s what! I loved everything about Manifest Recall. This is a book featuring a strong lead in Eli Carver. The story is a jigsaw puzzle, reminiscent of the Guy Pierce movie Momento, as Carver flees an angry mob boss not only with the boss’s daughter but with a backseat of supernatural baggage too. As Caver steadily puts together the pieces of the puzzle the reason for his hasty and bloody exit becomes more apparent. Manifest Recall is tougher than boot leather and huge credit to Baxter for the way in which he paints Carver as this merciless brut, and yet I still I was fully invested in him in no time at all. The supernatural elements are excellent and add another layer to the story. They don’t get in the way of it and turn it into something cheesy, they simply linger wraith-like in the background.
The first half of the book sets the tone perfectly whilst the second half is all action, ending in a thrilling and bloody set piece. Manifest Recall showcases everything Alan Baxter is good at: great characters, gripping action and tight plotting. Eli Carver is definitely a character I want to read more of. Count me in for book 2.
Some readers will say that the noir trope of an amnesiac protagonist is overdone. But, when it is done well, the rule is worth breaking. And Baxter does it so well at the beginning of this book. He intertwines action with the character development in such a way that we learn about Eli's past - and the traumatic reason for his memory loss - without it being an info-dump. It is a fast-paced, action-packed novella with a great supernatural twist and excellent characters.
This book grabbed me by the balls from the start, and didn't let go - Baxter manages to create a narrative that constantly keeps the suspense high and makes this hard to put down until the climax, which doesn't disappoint.
Over the last few years, Alan Baxter has not only released some amazing works (Devouring Dark/Served Cold/The Roo), but he’s also become an author that I get truly excited for their new releases. When Baxter announced Recall Night, Book Two in the Eli Carver world, I realized I had Manifest Recall sitting on my Kindle, unread.
What I liked: Eli Carver is a thug. Paid to keep business moving for underground boss Vernon. When he comes back from a blackout episode, he is in a car, no memory of recent events and beside him, tied up is a woman of great importance to Vernon.
Baxter opens this thing up at 100mph and from there keeps finding extra gears to throw more and more action at us, while we slowly learn of what caused the blackout.
Carver is a great character. Baxter makes us root for him long before all the details come out and as his journey is laid out, Carver has a great arc for the redemption of past events.
His companion Carly was another well-crafted character. Smart and strong, her evolution paired well with Carver’s.
What I didn’t like: I personally found the paranormal aspect almost unwarranted. Carver sees the ghosts of prior victims and can hear them speak. Except for a small, philosophical moment near the end, they play such a minor role as to be unnecessary. I was hoping Carver would tell Carly, but that never came about.
Why you should buy this: Baxter has crafted a fast-paced, brutal thriller. Carver kills at will and this makes for a fun, unpredictable novella. Think Jason Statham’s ‘Crank’ with ghosts. I’ve got book two preordered and will dive in on release day. You should as well.
I’ve come to expect nothing but the best in dark fiction from Grey Matter Press, and once again, they didn’t disappoint. This offering is part gritty crime story, part road novel, and part psychological horror. A hit-man hellbent on revenge while battling the ghosts of his past that may or may not actually be real ghosts - who couldn’t love that premise?
Tautly written, and moves like a bullet. A genre-crossing story that scratches a lot of itches.
One very minor complaint: Baxter is British-Australian, and a few times it shows, with these American characters using phrases (like “you lot”) that Americans don’t say or in calling a ski mask a balaclava, which is a word I’ve never heard any American anywhere say ever.
Then again, Baxter also writes phrases like this: ... I want to stand atop a pile of bones and blood and scream my $&@!ing defiance at the heavens, and then spill my own life out at my feet and let the blackness take me forever. Which is part of one of the best paragraphs I’ve read in a while. So what’s a few Britishisms among friends?
A hitman has amnesia. He can’t recall why he is on the run, nor why he has kidnapped his former boss’s stepdaughter. As he drives aimlessly across the US countryside his memory slowly comes back to him. From that moment on, all he can focus on is revenge.
Manifest recall begins slower than it ought to have mainly because the first half is told as backstory. Personally, I’d have told it all in present tense even if the book began with the amnesia and then stepped back in time. At the halfway mark things change because it is all present tense. From that point the book becomes un-put-downable. As the suspense built I forgot that the antagonist was actually a villain himself and found myself rooting for him. The twist was predictable but I’ll forgive that.
In typical Baxter style, the story is quite dark and is riddled with profanities so if these offend then don’t bother. However, if you enjoy a good urban thriller noir then don’t go past this one. I started reading Baxter, including his co-authored books 2 years ago and I have never looked back. I’ll certainly be reading more from him in the future.
With Manifest Recall, Alan Baxter delivers yet another disturbing read. And for Alan “disturbing” is a compliment… usually aiming to spook and disquiet his readers with the supernatural, noir and horror themes he writes about. Even though it took me the entire first chapter to get into the book – all the while thinking “what the frell am I reading here??!!” , it was well worth it to continue reading – once the story behind the main characters, Eli and Carly, slowly began to unravel. Despite their brutal & dark past and present behaviour, I sympathized with them… (then again, who wouldn’t?) Both their journeys turn out to move in opposite directions: For one it is a journey from innocence to corruption – for the other the journey is something like the return to “innocence”. Experiences we make in life shape us as a human being… and the sum of it will see us turn into the person others see before them… to change from the person that we are is a possibility – but not a given: sometimes we turn into the person we were shaped into by our life’s experiences… or by choice… in the end – as usual, it all comes down to the choices people make. The book (like all of Alan’s books – and Crow Shine in particular) depicts the many facets of mankind (the good, the bad, the ugly and the promising). He puts the finger into the wound and forces us to ponder human behavior – the likes of which we are faced with every day in RL & challenges us to decide what choice we ourselves would have made if faced with the same situation… Alan Baxter truly has a knack for grasping the ‘psychology’ of humans… and for writing whacko, twisted characters… ;-) Manifest Recall is darker and bloodier than his previous books. The ending I totally did not anticipate… - he really surprised me there…
I can recommend Manifest Recall for those who enjoy a good mindf**k… If you have read Crow Shine, you will enjoy this book… if you haven’t read Crow Shine, then I absolutely recommend you do so immediately! Despite initial difficulties, I enjoyed the read and am looking forward to what Alan is offering us next…
“A flicker of story from Greek mythology comes to me. Lethe. One of five rivers in the underworld of Hades, the river of unmindfulness. The shades of the dead were required to drink its waters in order to forget their earthly life. Maybe I've died and drunk a gutful of Lethe and this is some strange Hell.”
Hit man Eli finds himself on the lam with more more holes in his memory than a slab of Swiss cheese and a captive, a woman with ties to organized crime. He must face his guilt and inner demons in order to piece together his tragic past and obtain the retribution he craves, before his mind shuts down again to protect him from the pain.
Manifest Recall is a fasted-paced noir thrill ride, full of violence and the ghosts of the past.
The story comes into focus with Eli Carver driving and a woman with her hands tied in the front passenger seat. Eli has no idea who she is, where he came from, or where he's going. The story is a patchwork of memory fragments, kill-or-be-killed action, and vengeance. You will be engrossed with Manifest Recall as you go on a journey with Eli to remember the past and demand retribution, no matter the cost.
The book is split into 2 parts; I found both to be equally entertaining but I did feel at times that I was ready for a small break. Baxter's writing however is tight and fluid with tons of momentum. I finished it in a day and it will keep you flipping the pages.
Overall I was impressed with this work and will be on the lookout for more from Baxter. I would definitely buy into a sequel for Carver and Sykes. I suppose I don't have much empathy for Sykes. Sure, her story is a sad one but I think I needed a bit more of her character revealing the depths of her sadness and hatred. Maybe a recalling of a particularly bad event with Vernon.