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Review: Westside

Title: Westside
Author: W.M. Akers


New York is dying, and the one woman who can save it has smaller things on her mind.

It’s 1921, and a thirteen-mile fence running the length of Broadway splits the island of Manhattan, separating the prosperous Eastside from the Westside—an overgrown wasteland whose hostility to modern technology gives it the flavor of old New York. Thousands have disappeared here, and the respectable have fled, leaving behind the killers, thieves, poets, painters, drunks, and those too poor or desperate to leave.

It is a hellish landscape, and Gilda Carr proudly calls it home.

Slightly built, but with a will of iron, Gilda follows in the footsteps of her late father, a police detective turned private eye. Unlike that larger-than-life man, Gilda solves tiny mysteries: the impossible puzzles that keep us awake at night; the small riddles that destroy us; the questions that spoil marriages, ruin friendships, and curdle joy. Those tiny cases distract her from her grief, and the one impossible question she knows she can’t answer: “How did my father die?”

Yet on Gilda’s Westside, tiny mysteries end in blood—even the case of a missing white leather glove. Mrs. Copeland, a well-to-do Eastside housewife, hires Gilda to find it before her irascible merchant husband learns it is gone. When Gilda witnesses Mr. Copeland’s murder at a Westside pier, she finds herself sinking into a mire of bootlegging, smuggling, corruption—and an evil too dark to face.

All she wants is to find one dainty ladies’ glove. She doesn’t want to know why this merchant was on the wrong side of town—or why he was murdered in cold blood. But as she begins to see the connection between his murder, her father’s death, and the darkness plaguing the Westside, she faces the hard truth: she must save her city or die with it.


Yet another impulse buy that I definitely don’t regret. I have a hard time finding standalone books to read, so when I do find one that isn’t part of a series, I get really excited. There’s something hugely satisfying about sitting down to read a book with a story that I know will be completely over by the end. That being said, this book left me wanting sequels despite the finality of its ending.

Westside follows an intriguing heroine named Gilda, who has followed in her father’s footsteps as an investigator. Unlike her father, though, she deals strictly in small mysteries. Missing trinkets, unidentifiable tunes stuck in heads, etc. Unfortunately, her latest tiny mystery leads her into the biggest mystery even her father couldn’t resolve. Gilda is a heroine who struggles with her motivations, her actions, and the life she’s living in the wake of tragedy. She’s a badass without trying too hard to be one, with a sharp wit and lightheartedness I wasn’t expecting. She’s earned a spot among my favorite leading ladies of fiction.

This was a really awesome read, and I have to say it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that caught me off-guard so many times, and kept me on the edge of my seat. The action is fast-paced but never rushed, and made it really hard to want to put the book down. It felt like I was right in the middle of it all, until the setting itself became its own character. Everything was so vivid and visceral, it felt like this version of New York really could have existed at some point. Even the paranormal aspects felt real. Everything is wrapped in such mystery that the vagueness and lack of overly drawn-out explanations for the paranormal makes it feel that much more plausible, if that makes sense.

And that’s just the book’s setting. Every character, no matter how brief their mention or encounters with Gilda, felt fleshed out and real. The world of this book hooked me in and won’t let go. Hence, my desire for more stories about Gilda and her city.

Here’s hoping this isn’t the last we see of this universe!

Rating: 5/5


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