Zenka by Alison Brodie

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Happy publication day to Alison Brodie, whose latest novel, Zenka, is released today.  I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read Zenka ahead of the publication date, grabbed by the sound of a very different kind of heroine.  You can read an extract from Zenka here.

Ruthless, devious, and loyal, Zenka is a Hungarian pole-dancer with a dark past.

When cranky London mob boss, Jack Murray, saves her life she vows to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not. Happily, she now has easy access to pistols, knives and shotguns.

Jack discovers he has a son, Nicholas, a male nurse with a heart of gold. Problem is, Nicholas is a wimp.

Zenka takes charge. Using her feminine wiles and gangland contacts, she will turn Nicholas into the son any self-respecting crime boss would be proud of. And she succeeds!

Nicholas is learning fast that sometimes you have to kill, or be killed.

As his life becomes more terrifying, questions have to be asked:

How do you tell a mob boss you don’t want to be his son?

And is Zenka really who she says she is?

Zenka is a fascinating character, made all the more so by the fact that hers is not one of the points of view from which the story is told, aside from the odd letter to a (presumably) Hungarian friend or family member.  These letters give some insight into her thoughts and actions, but for the most part, the reader only sees Zenka through the eyes of others.  Small and feisty, Zenka is more than a little unusual – fiercely loyal to those who have earned it, she refuses to be dominated, and is not afraid of taking matters into her own hands.  Alison made a few changes to the novel shortly before I read it and said that she wished Zenka would get out of her head – a sentiment that I fully understand having read the novel – she is a unique and unforgettable character.

I thoroughly enjoyed the plot of Zenka and found that whilst it sounds like a deceptively simple story – that of a mob boss looking to connect with a son he never knew he had without alerting his enemies to his existence – this quickly became more complicated with multiple threads to the story line, and several twists and turns to keep the reader guessing as to the eventual outcome.  I don’t want to say too much on this, as the story gets going very quickly, and it really is best to go into it with as little prior knowledge as possible.

Zenka is an incredibly fast-paced story, and mixes black comedy with mobsters and a little romance.  It’s a strange mix, but this is a highly entertaining novel that is more than a little amusing.  A little over the top at times (in a good way!), this is an easy read that I recommend if you’re looking for something a little different, as I’m sure there’s nothing out there that’s quite like Zenka.

Zenka was released today as an eBook – many thanks to Alison for providing a copy for review.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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