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REVIEW: “Blackcoat” by Steve McHugh

This is my first foray into Steve McHugh’s writing. But won’t be the last. For all you tldr; hacks out there, I found the book enjoyable, and on par with what I expected for a short action read. It is novella size (124 pages) and its quick pace carries you through to the end without putting on the brakes.

The story is about Celine Moro, who is a Blackcoat, an elite investigator. It opens with Celine, captured, being interrogated by her captor. A twist of fate sets her on a fast paced adventure through a cold, wintertime, future-set factory/warehouse compound. Through it all her end goal remains the same – kill the bad guy. And for a good action story, that’s all we need. She’s not out to “change the world”, but in a sense, if she is successful, she will change some things around there.

You can feel the cold atmosphere as you skip from chapter to chapter. And the tension level is like a good roller coaster. The characters are action figure cutouts, which is fine. It’s what I expected, and I’m ok with it. There’s no deep internal dialogue about giving peace a chance or anything like that. It’s kill or be killed. Savvy? She has a reason she’s doing what she’s doing which makes it all the better.

Through an unlikely ally (also female) she gets some toys that will help her carry out her mission. The problem is, she may never return to get those toys due to an unexpected adversary: killer beasts created by some drug manufactured in a lab. Cliche? A bit, but who gives a shit? It’s fun, and no less generic than any recent Liam Neeson or Jason Statham movie, right? I digress.

I will also note that one of the antagonists is also female. Kudos to McHugh for venturing into the “Amazon” territory (and before you draw a deep breath and say “did he really use the word Amazon here?”, I use it in the same sense that it’s used in fantasy fiction with STRONG FEMALE LEADS. It’s not an insult – so breathe Karen!).

Steven, is not female. But I’m going to guess, being the father of three daughters has something to do with this. I could be assuming. As a father of four daughters (and 2 sons), I concur. I appreciate the strong, kickass bitch stereotype laying down the law in the story.

There are a few (maybe more than a few) problem areas. From a writer’s perspective, this book was poorly edited. It needs a good once over (sorry Steve). I’m only talking about “clean up” work, like misspelled words, or broken sentences. This detracted from the story for me. A couple of times I felt the dialogue was forced or inauthentic. For example, there’s an exchange between Celine and her ally about someone who was killed. It’s supposed to be heartfelt, but comes off as stale and unemotional. A bit out of character because I just wanted her to lock and load and get back to business. I don’t care about the person they discuss because I don’t know the relationship or how strong it was. I’m only told. The character is only a name on a page.

But that’s my ONLY complaint, as a writer. I agree with the reviewers that give the read 4-5 stars on Amazon. It gets you from point A to B, has a plot, and also a touch of an arc (it’s Action, no arc needed). It also lends itself to more stories featuring Celine Moro. I look forward to them.

Blackcoat is a gateway to my next read by Steven, which will most likely be the Hellequin Chronicles.

You can pick up Blackcoat for Kindle for about $3.50 (at the time of this writing). You can also get it in paperback. Or free with Kindle Unlimited.

Blackcoat by Steve McHugh  (not an affiliate link)

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If you like Blackcoat by Steve McHugh, or action stories in general, you will enjoy my upcoming novel Darkness of the Northern Sky

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