Author: Nesly Clerge
Publisher: IngramSpark (self published?)
My thanks to Shayla Raquel for the opportunity to review this book 🙂
When Shayla contacted me on Goodreads and asked me to review this book I admit I was a little thrown. Firstly, I’d never been asked to review a book before, so I was nervous. Secondly, I thought that Nesly Clerge was a made up name. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. I thought: this is a spam message if I’ve ever seen one. But a little Googling revealed that I was indeed an idiot and Nesly is a real person *face palm*.
And you know what? I’m very glad that I did because this book is a cracking read.
When The Serpent Bites is quite different to the books I would normally read. It isn’t an out-and-out crime novel. Neither is it a thriller of the kind I’d normally read. I guess that if you had to categorise it, WTSB (for the sake of my poor fingers on this keyboard), is a character driven psychological drama. It follows our protagonist, Frederick Starks (or just Starks, as he prefers to be known), as he royally fucks up his life and goes to prison. Silly, silly man.
I have to say that WTSB starts very abruptly indeed, throwing us straight into the action. So much so that I thought that my Kindle hadn’t downloaded the first few chapters of the book. I do feel that the beginning could have been structured better; maybe starting with Starks already in Jail and flashing back, but it works. Just.
Frederick Starks himself is a very good character indeed: he’s deeply flawed, acting on impulse, quite often letting his emotions very much get the better of him at the wrong times. He’s not a particularly likeable person; he is a very rich man, believing that showering people with money equates to showing love, or buying loyalty; if not trust. He is a stubborn, arrogant bastard, too. He refuses to accept his role in the break-up of his marriage, but there are chinks in his armour – moments throughout the novel where he begins to see and show understanding. But is it too little too late?
Story wise the basics are thus: Frederick Starks is a man who has everything; a successful business, he’s very wealthy, has a beautiful, loving girlfriend. He’s estranged from his wife Kayla, and his three kids. They’ve been separated for a year at the start of this book, but Starks just cannot let go. One fateful night Starks goes around to the house of the guy she’s been sleeping with, Ozy Hessinger; the man Starks believes destroyed his marriage. He wants to confront Ozy and tell his wife, in front of him, what a cheating bastard her husband is. This does not go well. It doesn’t go well at all for Starks. Ozy goads Starks, pulls a knife and it all goes tits up very fast. In a fit of rage he batters Ozy to within an inch of his life, leaving him in a coma. The police arrive just as Starks is battering the living daylights out of Ozy with a glass bowl and thus, from here on in, Starks’ fate is sealed:
“He’d only wanted to humiliate Ozy. No, that wasn’t true. He’d hoped to destroy Ozy’s family, just as the man had destroyed his. Just, God, not in this way. Now the proverbial dominoes were tumbling, each one striking the next as they fell. And, it seemed this would continue, until none were left standing”
This book is not a fast paced action thriller; it’s a book that takes it’s time. It delves deep into Starks’ psyche. It explores what it takes to make a person do something so apparently out of character and the consequences that come with those actions. It’s part courtroom drama, part psychological thriller and, for the most part, a taut and tense prison drama (there’s one scene towards the end of the book that literally had my heart racing as I read it). Starks’ journey from successful rich businessman to the new ‘fish’ in the maximum security Sands correctional facility is very well handled. There are no huge surprises in terms of story beats really; man breaks law, man goes to trial, man is found guilty, man goes to jail, man rises up through the prison hierarchy…you get the idea, but Nesly Clerge writes with such skill and conviction you’d believe he’d actually been through this himself (*quick Google check* No, he hasn’t). This book has clearly been researched very thoroughly. Along the way we get to know who Starks was before the incident, how he met Kayla, how he built up his business. Of course we also meet other characters that have an important part to play in Starks’ story; some friendly, some most definitely not so friendly.
After a admittedly ropey start, for me at least, I grew to love this book. It was tense and gripping, urging me to read on until very late at night. There are two more books in the series (When The Dragon Roars and When The Phoenix Rises), and I cannot wait to see how it all plays out. 5/5