“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.
This Charming Man is the second book in the critically acclaimed The Stranger Times series.”
Hello and welcome to damppebbles. Today I am delighted to hand the blog over to my guest reviewer extraordinaire, Ryan, who is going to share his thoughts on This Charming Man, the second book in The Stranger Times series by C.K. McDonnell. This Charming Man was published by Penguin Books on 12th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats.
Here’s what Ryan thought…
Recently I reviewed the wonderful The Stranger Times on damppebbles and, whilst writing that review, I remember how excited I was to get my hands on a copy of This Charming Man, the second book in The Stranger Times series. Not only was I excited to catch up with the characters to see what happened next, but I also wanted to be ready for the release of Love Will Tear Us Apart – The Stranger Times Book 3, which was due to be published on 9th February 2023. I’ll tell you now that only part-way through This Charming Man I’d already pre-ordered the next book, which should hopefully give you a hint about the direction of this review!
The Stranger Times introduced us to the employees of the eponymous newspaper, and their discovery that magic still exists. For most newspapers that wouldn’t be something to report on, but when your paper is already dedicated to articles on ghosts, the cancellation of the Earth and haunted toilets then magic becomes pretty mainstream for you! This Charming Man picks up a few weeks after the end of The Stranger Times, giving the characters time to draw breath and reflect on their new understanding. But they don’t get to relax for long as vampires are stalking the city. The only thing is neither side of the magical community (the Founders and the Folk) believe that vampires exist, so if the spate of canine-enhanced bloodsuckers isn’t down to them, then what is going on and who is trying to kidnap staff members of the paper?
McDonnell has created a wonderful cast of characters in this series. Whether you prefer the caustic, cynical Editor, Banecroft, new-to-the-team, Hannah or the mysterious Stella, each character becomes more defined in this second book. We see that potentially, deep down under the layers of dank distrusting cynicism, Banecroft may actually have some small shard of empathy left. Hannah finds new confidence and at the start of the story we see Stella keen to learn more about herself, but will she? You’ll have to read this amazing series to find out!
Weirdly, the main difficulty for the reporters of The Stranger Times is not being caught between two magical powers whose long term truce appears to be slowly disintegrating. Rather the police keep getting in the way trying to ascribe perfectly normal causes to the perfectly inexplicable occurrences. DI Sturgess is the only open-minded officer in the force but is the Manchester judicial system really ready for vampires?
If you like urban fantasy, humour or just a darn good book then this is a series you should be reading. I also want to comment on the amazing cover art. At first look the coffin on the front cover looks a strong solid image but look in detail and you will see so many references to the story (including flying toilets and dogs in hats!) that you realise how clever the illustrator is. I can’t recommend this book enough; fabulous storylines, wonderful world building and characters you want to know better. Five stars!
This Charming Man by C.K. McDonnell was published in the UK by Penguin Books on 12th January 2023 and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio and digital formats (please note, the following links are affiliate links which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you): | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | bookshop.org | Goodreads | damppebbles bookshop.org shop | damppebbles amazon.co.uk shop | damppebbles amazon.com shop |
C.K. McDonnell is the paranormal pen name of the Irish bestselling author Caimh McDonnell. Born in Limerick and raised in Dublin, Caimh is a former stand-up comedian and TV writer. He performed all around the world, had several well-received Edinburgh shows and supported acts such as Sarah Millican and Gary Delaney on tour before hanging up his clowning shoes to concentrate on writing. He has also written for numerous TV shows and been nominated for a Kid’s TV BAFTA.
When not writing about the adventures of the staff at The Stranger Times in his adopted home of Manchester, he is the author of the Increasingly Inaccurately titled Dublin Trilogy of books and the various spinoffs, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Caimh lives in Manchester with Wonderwife and their two dogs. To find out more about him, visit whitehairedirishman.com, and to find out more about The Stranger Times, and to join the mailing list for updates plus a free short story collection, go to TheStrangerTimes.com.
Also check out The Stranger Times podcast, available almost everywhere, and featuring short stories set in the world of The Stranger Times, written by C.K. and read by some of the finest stand-up comedian talent that are willing to do it for the money.