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The Grind (The Darling Killer Trilogy Book 2) Kindle Edition
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I read and reviewed The Tease, book 1 in the Darling Killer Trilogy, last summer and enjoyed it very much, so I was thrilled and honored when the author contacted me and asked if I would review an ARC of book 2, The Grind. I'm happy to say that once again, I very much enjoyed this book.
Anna Zendel is a disgraced therapist and a burlesque dancer who is being stalked by a serial killer. At the end of The Tease, it looked like the killer had been caught - but then another character drops a line of dialogue that turns everything around and makes you realize, no, the killer wasn't caught at all. In The Grind, Anna is trying to move on from the events in book 1. She's facing an ethics hearing to determine whether or not she will be allowed to continue practicing her profession and trying to put her burlesque troupe back together. The last thing she needs is for the killer to reappear, making demands along with the killings, and for one of her new troupe members to turn out to be psycho.
The story is suspenseful and engrossing, and at times heartbreaking, balanced out with Anna's dry humor - sometimes the only thing that's keeping her sane. I enjoyed getting to know her hippie father, whose mantras bear an uncanny resemblance to Beatles songs, and chewing my nails in delicious anxiety as I watched the character who may have revealed him/herself as the killer in the last book insinuate her/himself more closely into Anna's life. The members of her burlesque troupe (hers, because she's taken over as the director), both returning from book 1 and new in this book, are a colorful and likeable bunch, and the descriptions of their acts are entertaining. The story arc is masterfully constructed; I saw the suspect character playing more of a role in Anna's life, and started to doubt my instincts about that character, then at the end, after a claustrophobic and truly scary showdown against another villain, that character drops another line that's like a punch to the gut and I realized how close to disaster Anna really is. The last part of The Grind was another one of those where I stayed up way too late to see how it all turned out.
My only problem with the book is similar to the one I had with book 1, the somewhat heavy-handed delivery of a social message. But that part is brief and soon left behind, and we return to the engaging story of Anna's attempts to deal with rabid reporters, suspicious police, psycho troupe members, her upcoming ethics hearing, tragic losses, and her growing feelings for someone whom she's afraid to love because she doesn't want him to get hurt, all while hoping to stay alive long enough to catch the real killer. It's a breathless, entertaining, well-written ride, and I am eagerly looking forward to the next book.
Less concerned with a fast-paced plot, Pill takes us deep inside Anna's head while Anna endures all manner of stress. "The Grind" spares us no detail of the inner turmoil that wracks Anna on a daily basis, and after a point, the reader wonders how Anna is even able to get through each day. Pill makes you feel the weight of each trial Anna faces to the point where you almost dread reading the next page, because once you think Anna has been driven down as far as she can go, Pill turns the screws again. And Anna may bend, but she won't break.
Pill has expanded Anna's world in "The Grind," and the depiction of the changes made to the burlesque troupe is a fascinating development in this series. "The Tease" introduced us to the world or burlesque as it was in its infancy and the way it is traditionally seen: conventionally attractive (white) women doing beautiful and glamorous, albeit generally superficial, strip teases designed mostly for titillation and for audiences of mostly heteronormative men. With "The Grind," Pill expands the membership of the troupe and introduces us to the more modern world of neo-burlesque, which dominates the landscape today: performers from all walks of life - all shapes, sizes, colors, gender identities - where the driving force (and significant portion of the target audience) is women. The glamour and delicacy take a back seat to strong messages of acceptance of women independently of men and the male gaze. Moreover, Pill introduces us to the broader range of skills and styles brought to the burlesque world, from boylesque to aerial arts to harder-edged performance art, and takes us headfirst into a richly diverse and fascinating performing arts culture teeming with sex-positivity and body-positivity.
For as wonderful as this development is, Pill never loses sight of the main plot, which is how Anna works to keep herself and her troupe safe from The Darling Killer. Intrigue pops up in most unexpected ways and provides just one of many sources of pressure that are applied to Anna throughout the book. To go into further detail would undoubtedly spoil the experience of accompanying Anna on this journey, so I will say no more about it. The only thing left to say is that Pill's sure-handed direction of this trilogy has not only created a complex and fascinating protagonist for us to follow, but also an equally complex and fascinating world that these characters inhabit.
As I felt upon finishing Part One, all I can say now is that I am on pins and needles for the third and final installment.
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The Grind is the second book in the Darling Killer Trilogy.Read more