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This Charming Man by C.K. McDonnell – ARC Review!

Vampires do not exist. Everyone knows this. So it’s particularly annoying when they start popping up around Manchester . . .

Nobody is pleased about it. Not the Founders, the secret organisation for whom vampires were invented as an allegory, nor the Folk, the magical people hidden in plain sight who only want a quiet life. And definitely not the people of Manchester, because there is nothing more irksome than being murdered by an allegory run amok. Somebody needs to sort this out fast before all Hell really breaks loose – step forward the staff of The Stranger Times.

It’s not like they don’t have enough to be dealing with. Assistant Editor Hannah has come back from getting messily divorced to discover that someone is trying to kidnap a member of their staff and while editor Vincent Banecroft would be delighted to see the back of any of his team, he doesn’t like people touching his stuff – it’s the principle of the thing.

Throw in a precarious plumbing situation, gambling debts, an entirely new way of swearing, and a certain detective inspector with what could be kindly referred to as ‘a lot of baggage’ and it all adds up to another hectic week in the life of the newspaper committed to reporting the truth that nobody else will touch.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review & can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Vampire’s absolutely do not exist. So when they start popping up and killing people in Manchester, it’s not just the Police and the reporters from the Stranger Times who are perplexed, the folk are adamant they don’t exist, never have. Never quite able to catch a break, the crew from The Stranger Times investigate the deaths, but they have more than enough on their plate with one of their own under threat of kidnap from unknown sources. Both their investigations lead them to one big reveal, old magic is returning, and with it, more danger than anyone is prepared for.

If there’s one thing that really endears me to this series, it’s McDonnells brilliantly brought to life characters. Through the story we get to follow the POV’s of the gang from The Stranger Times, D.I Sturgess, the police officer who is in way over his head, as well as various ‘beings’ pertaining to the cases they are looking into. Hannah, Banecroft, Grace, Stella, Ox and Reggie have easily become one of my favourite literary gangs, though if you called them a ‘gang’ you’d probably get a few odd looks. They couldn’t be more different from each other, the only thing that brings them together is the paper, and through it, their knowledge of the magical world. They’re all pretty new to it though, no one really knows the rules, which means they find themselves in some hilarious and oftentimes hairy situations. The interactions between them all absolutely make this story, from Banecroft’s penchant for profanities, to Grace’s need to bless the Lord every time something happens as well as the fact that no one quite knows that Stella is. Suffice to say this story is laugh out loud funny in parts, but also heartwarming in others because they all care for each other, well… ok, maybe not Banecroft, and in their own way have formed a rather strange family.

Another thing I love about this series (I Loved it, in case you couldn’t tell) was the setting. It’s so rare to get books set in Northern England, especially fantasy books, and McDonnell makes full use of his setting. Everything from the slang, I full on snort laughed at ‘You’re a reality star that people vaguely remember, not Princess Diana. Wind your neck in,’ to the array of people who live there, he makes Manchester almost a character in itself and I love being able to recognise specific places mentioned and knowing that I can re-trace the characters steps myself. His witty and descriptive writing ensure that you stay glued to the pages and I can’t tell you the amount of times I laughed out loud at certain parts. Even the scenes where one or more of the characters are in danger are portrayed in a humorous way, there are stakes, just not the emotional kind and even though you know the characters are going to make it out ok, through his dry and sometimes dark humour, McDonnell ensures we stay glued to the pages.

McDonnell effortlessly melds the magical world with the mundane, and one of the special things about this series is that were’re learning about it right alongside the characters. It’s only in book one that the cast of The Stranger Times learnt that there really are monsters out there and that some of their articles might just have been true. So they’re completely new to it, and I enjoyed seeing them trying to insinuate themselves into the magical community. The magic system itself is pretty simple, except the third eye popping out of Sturgess’s head, no one really knows what that’s about. In the second book we get to go on a slightly deeper dive into the magical community thanks to our characters having to try and figure out who’s trying to kidnap Stella. One of my favourite additions to this book though had to be Cogs, the man who, thanks to a brief and unfortunate relationship was cursed to tell the truth and Vinny his dog… kinda. The growth in development of the magical world and the characters that inhabit it in this book was brilliant and I’m eager to see who we will meet in the next one.

In a nutshell, this book was bloody brilliant! The series so far has been an incredibly easy read, each with their own mystery to solve but with a uniting thread running through it all that we get hints at throughout. Laugh out loud funny, if you’re looking for an urban fantasy with a strange but lovable (maybe not Banecroft) cast of characters, then look no further.

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