“Nine Days” by Minerva Koenig, 302 pages, Minotaur Books, $25, on sale Tuesday
Consider it “Sons of Anarchy” in book form.
Fans of the FX drama series will draw plenty of parallels in “Nine Days,” the debut novel by Austin, Texas-based architect Minerva Koenig.
The book follows protagonist Julia Kalas to the small town of Azula, Texas, after the Aryan Brotherhood murdered her husband in front of her. Kalas, the narrator’s new identity, is placed under witness protection and given a new life as a bartender.
Of course this fresh start is drained from the tap within her first few days on the job, when the bar’s owner, Hector Guerra, also a crush of Julia’s, uncovers a dead body and severed hand on the roof.
What follows is a dizzying mix of rival groups, arms dealing, crooked cops, citizens turned private investigators and Central American politics — and anything else one could possibly expect from a fictional town situated near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Kalas serves as the book’s version of Jax Teller on “Sons.” She’s principled despite her criminal history and won’t relent in protecting what she cares about. Here, that’s Guerra, an early suspect in the murder. Kalas’s oft-mentioned “radar” suspects Guerra, whom she’s known for days, is innocent.
The antagonist is Richard Hallstedt, a surgeon and money-hungry politician who’s obsessed with facilitating a major downtown redevelopment project. Think of Jacob Hale in the second season of “Sons,” when he tolerated white supremacists in an attempt to push SAMCRO out of Charming. Hallstedt and Hale, who consider themselves public servants, will stop at nothing to push their agenda.
For the first 200 pages or so, it all blends together for an intriguing read, especially with Julia’s understandable paranoia that her identity has been compromised. By the end, though, Julia’s radar is constantly spinning, and half a dozen townspeople, including Guerra, take turns as her lead suspect.
The author should be applauded for creating a likable but flawed heroine in Kalas. Perhaps both have more adventures to come.
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