ARC received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
A Numbers Game by RJ Dark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
Genre: Mystery, crime
Published: 4th June 2021 by Wavesback (Indie)
A Numbers Game was an enjoyable mystery read that has great emotions and the hallmarks of RJ Barker’s humour.
RJ Dark is the alter-ego of RJ Barker, who debuted with a stunningly phenomenal but criminally underrated fantasy trilogy, The Wounded Kingdom. I’ve also read the first book of his sophomore series, The Tide Child, and for the first time ever, absolutely loved a book that was predominantly about ships and seafaring. Safe to say, I’ve come to trust this Barker guy to write a darn good yarn anytime of the day.
So when I found out about his alter-ego writing modern crime mysteries set in his homeland, I naturally jumped at the chance of reading it. While fantasy has and will always be my favourite genre, I’ve been increasingly drawn to crime mysteries/thrillers of late. And I’m particularly to partial to those written by British authors (thanks to my late discovery of the wonderful Grand Dame of Mystery, Agatha Christie, and of course, Arthur Conan Doyle).
Anyway, back to RJ Dark and his debut mystery novel, A Numbers Game. The first thing that hit me as I read this book was that the humour was spot on and thoroughly RJ. I’ve followed the author on Twitter and also met him in person, and let me tell you that he is a gem. It was little surprise that I found the writing in this gritty modern British mystery setting to be vivid, engaging, funny and yet poignant at times. It was pretty much exactly what I would imagine RJ Barker will sound like writing non-fantasy fiction that pay homage to his roots.
I actually thought that the mystery wasn’t as interesting as the interplay of the characters in the book. What made this book for me was the friendship between Mal and Jackie. While I liked Mal enough on his own with his self-deprecating, honest internal monologues, the scenes where Jackie was with him were the best parts of the story. The characterisation of Jackie was also more fascinating than Mal, and makes for a most unlikely pairing between the two of them. A trope which I’ve always loved, especially when combined with the rogue with a heart-of-gold.
This will be a relatively short review as I really couldn’t say much about the plot save for what was already mentioned in the synopsis. All in all, it was an entertaining read and I think that anyone who enjoys British crime mysteries with some grit and humour will enjoy this book.
You can purchase the book from Amazon UK.