Early Review: Westside by W.M. Akers


Westside by WM Akers // VBC ReviewWestside
W.M. Akers
Published: May 7, 2019 (Harper Voyager)
Purchase at: Amazon or Book Depository
Review Source: Copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

It’s 1921 and ever since her father’s disappearance, two years prior, Gilda Carr has taken up the mantle of private detective in his stead. She only focuses on the tiny mysteries. Gilda doesn’t want to get caught up in the bigger mystery of the Westside—such as its slow deterioration where the introduction of new technology is quickly rejected from the land, and how so many people from the Westside vanish every day or the way the shadows move in the dark.

When one of Gilda’s tiny mysteries—finding a lost glove for a client before her husband finds out about the missing gift—ends up embroiling her in the bigger mysteries, Gilda will be confronted with her father’s past, and the entanglements that could have ultimately led to his disappearance. Those same entanglements that also threaten the very lives of those who remain in the Westside.

Westside is author W.M. Akers’ debut novel. It succeeds at being an engrossing, gritty, and an often-dark look at an alternate history of New York in the 1920s. It was easy to get pulled in. The setting is wonderfully developed. It was also equally just as easy for me to be a little slower to pick it up again from those times when having to put it down, as the developing plot is a slow and steady pace.

The story takes place over the course of roughly a week. Gilda, who every day comes home to a house that’s a little less than what it was the day before, has been hardened from her time living on the Westside and having to fight tooth and nail to survive amongst everyone else trying to stay alive in a portioned off city with dwindling resources.

Because of this, Gilda is not the most compassionate character, she’s not easy to like, but I also didn’t outright dislike her either. She’s very much a product of her circumstances and she shows enough of a care—especially for her former nanny who is one of the only people left in her life that she cares about—that you can’t discount her completely.

I think the solving of the mystery was my favorite aspect of the story. The unfolding of her father’s past along with the mysterious shadows that reside in the dark leads readers and Gilda to follow a trail through the crumbling city with each stop adding a different piece to the puzzle. As interesting as this was, however, I felt like getting to the final answers, and seeing the bigger picture unfold, almost twisted around itself too much in the back and forth. Those spots were where I would start to be ok with setting the story aside for a little while and wouldn’t be driven to quickly pick it up again.

Regardless, the moments that I was immersed within the story, I was blown away by how vivid the setting—time and place. While Gilda solves the bigger mystery by the end, as well as a few tiny ones along the way, there is definitely room for more adventures. With the story so contained within New York proper, I’d be game to see Gilda’s investigations expanded a little more.

Sexual content: None

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