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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2010
There is something about Charlie that I find appealing. Her life is a mess in so many respects, but she, herself, is a really decent person. Kelly's writing is, of course, alpha and omega in making the series work and helping me like it. I find it amazing that this is actually Gay's writing debut.

The Charlie Madigan series is an urban fantasy one. They are meant to entertain. There are issues that come up in the books that are important ones, but like most novels out there on the market this is for the general public and not an esoteric philosophical LSD audience (Ok, that might have been a bit mean).

As with a great deal of the other urban fantasies out there the Charlie Madigan has a male/female action team. Since both Hank and Charlie work together, have a bantering tone between them and look quite good - well ...

In "The Better Part of Darkness" we find ourselves in an Atlanta city in a possible future where scientists have discovered two parallel planes of existence. Surprise, surprise, angels and demons do exist although not exactly in the heaven and hell version that we humans are so fond of. We have been visited by them for thousands of years and they have been using us and the earth as a battleground for working out their differences.

Now that humans know about them, we won't put up with their nonsense any longer and have laid down the law for them. A police-department has been established dealing especially with extraterrestrials. They are called the ITF (Integration Task Force). Charlie Madigan is one of the officers working for the Department and her partner, Hank.

Pretty early on in "The Better Part of Darkness", we find out that Charlie had a dead-then-alive experience that seems to be changing her physically.

Charlie's partner, Hank, is a siren from Elysia. He has the kind of voice that needs to be dampened, otherwise men and women would throw themselves at his feet and do anything he asked of them. This comes in handy in police-work as people really want to tell him the truth.

Her daughter, Emma, is a highly intuitive child, one with a great degree of empathy. She goes to Hope Ridge, a school for rich kids. Charlie can't afford it on her salary, but her ex-husband, Will, is paying for it.

When Charlie gets called to her daughters' school (with her partner Hank) she becomes extremely worried. The victim is Emma's old baby-sitter, Amanda Mott. At first thought dead, it turns out that Amanda is "just" in a coma of some kind. Making the situation a whole lot worse is the fact that there are several others who have been found like Amanda, and they have all died in the end. It seems all of them have been exposed to a new drug called "ash". It's extremely addictive and once it leaves a person's system, they die.

This is the mystery Charlie and Hank are to investigate. As you might imagine unexpected twists and turns do appear. As stated above, Kelly Gay's writing is of high quality and kept me reading until the end.

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Awards/nominations

2009 SIBA Okra Pick
2010 SIBA Long List Book Award Finalist
2010 RITA finalist, Best First Book
2010 RITA finalist, Best Novel w/Romantic Elements
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on 6 September 2010
This is the first book in the Charlie Madigan series. I've had this book on my shelf for a while having heard about it and thought it sounded interesting. But it's only now I've gotten around to reading it and I'm kind of sorry I waited so long. Charlie is a tough cop, a devoted mom, and fairly screwed up by having died a few months previously and having had some very creepy nightmares (and other strange side effect) ever since. When a strange 'off-world' drug, ash, hits too close to home she becomes more determined than ever to find the source and stop it. But the deeper they get in to it, the bigger the mountain they face. They're up against some very powerful opponents and some how Charlie knows it ties back in to her brief death. She's in serious trouble and her skills as a cop are probably not enough to save her, and she's not sure her allies are any more capable. But she'll try anyway.

I really liked this book. Charlie is someone who's dedicated to her job, but also a very loving, devoted mother. It doesn't take long to see that Charlie's world revolves around her daughter, Emma, and that she'd do anything for her. I really like when books show parental type relationships (may just be a child/teen the protagonist finds themselves responsible for) and familial relationships. Sometimes they can really make a book, whether it's a child/teen in an adult book or an adult in a major role in a YA book. It can be a really nice change to read, that level of realness, that extra drive it can give a protagonist that can't come from anything else. For it to work well though, there has to be the right balance, and that does exist here. Emma gets enough page time with her mom and there is enough of Charlie talking/thinking about her as well.

Doesn't stop Charlie from having other issues though. She's got some long buried ones that need dealing with, as well as her recent ones, such as the case she's working on. She's a fairly typical tough cop as well, and I love how she and her partner, Hank, play off each other. They have a clear bond/relationship established and I like getting to see more of it, the deeper in to the book you get. I really liked Hank from the start, although it takes a while to really get to know him.

I liked the world building. The supernaturals being from one of two different worlds/dimensions, both of which have their own tendencies, rules and needs. Not all the information is given at once, but there are some points where some extra back story is needed, and they do drag a little.

There are some good twists and there are a lot of sub plots all tied up together, though you can't see them all to start with. I really felt for Charlie as she had to make some hard decisions and face some hard home truths. But, I didn't like her all the time. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was bothering me, but there were times when I found myself getting pretty annoyed with her. Not often, but it did happen.

Overall I did really enjoy this book. It was easy to get in to, pretty hard to put down and plenty going on. There were some slow moments, and I didn't always like the characters, I felt some of them were a little flat. But on the whole, it was a really good read with some very interesting aspects and plenty to make me want to read more. Book 2, The Darkest Edge of Dawn, just released and I'm looking forward to getting and reading it!
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on 21 June 2011
The events in The Better Part of Darkness take place in Atlanta. Atlanta is a place for off-worlders, who are foreigners from alternate dimensions called Elysia (a heaven-like place) and Charbydon (a hell-like place). The existence of Elysia and Charbydon was discovered recently and ITF (Integration Task Force) was assigned to monitor all immigrants and off-world beings.

The main character, Charlie Madigan, is a divorced woman. Charlie's daughter, Emma, is a normal child and she has a good head on her shoulders. Besides being a mother Charlie is a cop who works for ITF. She has an off-world partner, Hank, who's a siren from Elysia. Charlie is a tough cop, but also a loving mother. In my opinion Charlie is a "kick ass" heroine who does her best under difficult circumstances.

The plot is interesting, because Charlie begins to investigate things when a fatal off-world narcotic ash starts to spread in the neighborhood. This is a good and strong start for the book - it makes the reader want to know more about what's going on. The character development feels good, because Charlie is a realistic character. She has inner struggles with certain things (she has feelings for her ex-husband etc). It's good that Charlie isn't a perfect person, because it adds realism to the book. The other characters - including Charlie's sister Bryn who is a gifted earth mage - are also interesting.

As many readers may know, urban fantasy has become increasingly popular during the last couple of years. It's a genre of its own, because it combines elements of fantasy, science fiction and everyday life. Urban fantasy differs greatly from normal fantasy and it provides a different kind of reading experience. This is perhaps one of the reasons why readers love urban fantasy.

I don't read urban fantasy often, but every once in a while it's nice to read well written urban fantasy books, because some of them are good and harmless entertainment for adults. They provide good escapism for fantasy readers.

I liked The Better Part of Darkness, because it was a good, gritty and entertaining urban fantasy book for adult readers. Kelly Gay has used imagination when she has created a new kind of Atlanta where beings from alternate dimensions live among ordinary people. The characters are realistic and the story is interesting (I think it's good that Charlie is a single mother, because many urban fantasy heroines don't have any children). In my opinion the existence of Elysia and Charbydon is an interesting take on the heaven and hell scenario. The Better Part of Darkness isn't a perfect book, but it's good and well written entertainment.

I can recommend The Better Part of Darkness to all readers who like urban fantasy, because it's an enjoyable book. I think that many fans of urban fantasy will find this book interesting.
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on 6 March 2012
i kept putting this down and must have read the first chapter at least three times as it didnt grab me instantly but i kept reading and am so pleased i did.
i am not sure if i really connected with charlie as at times she seemed[to this reader] almost too

keen to kick ass! but her strong maternal feelings saved her and made her a more rounded character. i wont give story away as others have but its an intriging beginning to what seems to be a very good series
lots of action and just a little bit sexy, definately not aimed as a romance but that made it grittier than others in this genre. clearly the author feels she does not need to titilate as her world and story stand out without extra fluff which some readers might object to.
if you like a good book that keeps you guessing and isnt predictable than this is the book for you!
i would give 4.5 stars
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on 23 September 2012
I read a lot of good books, but now and again I read a really great one that sucks me completely into the characters and the world. Yes, this is one of those. In fact I loved it so much I got the other three and read the whole series (so far) in under a week.
Lots of action, character development and also fun bits, to balance out troubles they go through.
Buy it and try it!
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on 28 October 2012
I read good reviews of this series, but just didn't see how a single mother and cop could be the basis for an inspired fantasy, even in an urban setting. How wrong was I? The world constructed is an immaculate blend of legend, myth and modern times, so convincingly blended that I challenge any author to top it! The main character 'Charlie' is a wiseass with a sore spot, her much loved daughter Emma. The world and plot are imaginatve from the start, but only increase in invention as the plot unfolds with an, if I may say, VERY Whedonesque finesse. While unquestionably an original series, I can say Buffy fans will adore this. Whatever, if you like Urban Fantasy, you'll love this series! Just buy it and get reading!

To Ms. Gay, please don't stop at 4! This series still has sooooo much mileage left in it!
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VINE VOICEon 20 January 2011
There seems no need to go over the storyline again as the previous reviewers have covered it nicely - but it's worth saying that this is a great read, and before I was even halfway through it I was ordering the follow-up. I highly recommend it
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on 1 June 2011
Excellent book this, pushed all the right buttons for me. Well done to first time author Kelly Gay and I look forward to reading the second in the series.

Still annoys me that the kindle edition(s) are more expensive.
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