I’m so excited to welcome back Barbra Leslie to Linda’s Book Bag to celebrate Rehab Run, the second in Barbara’s Cracked trilogy. Rehab Run is published today in North America and on 25th November 2016 in the UK, by Titan and is available in e-book and paperback from Amazon and through the publisher.
Last year I read the first in the series, Cracked, my crime book of the year 2015, reviewing it here and was delighted when Barbra agreed to an interview which you can read here. Today, to celebrate Rehab Run, Barbra has written a guest blog all about her central character Danny, who doesn’t always behave as Barbra wants! I’m also sharing my review.
Danny Cleary is getting clean. When her twin sister was murdered and her nephews kidnapped, drug-addicted Danny crossed North America with her brother Darren pursuing those responsible and being pursued. Now she’s in rehab in the peace and tranquility of rural Nova Scotia; the hardest thing she’s smoking is nicotine, and she s taken up running. This was exactly what she needed. Then she finds a human hand in a mailbox and her rural idyll is shattered. Once again Danny is drawn into a complex underworld of insanity, revenge and murder. She will have to fight to protect her family and uncover the truth.
A Guest Post by Barbra Leslie
The lovely Linda Hill mentioned something to me recently about writing about the “less salubrious” side of life – her words, not mine. Once I was able to wipe the smile off my face (‘salubrious’ is one of my favourite words, and I’m always tickled when someone uses it), it got me thinking. How much of my own life makes it into my fiction? And holy cow, does everyone assume my own life is as dark as what I write about?
The first novel in my crime trilogy, Cracked, involves a woman – who happens to be a crack addict – on a quest to avenge her twin sister’s murder. As readers of Linda’s blog may know, I took my own trip down the rabbit hole of addiction, years back. (In fact, I started writing an early draft of the book when I was recovering.) Cracked covers a lot of ground – literally. From the streets of Toronto to a wealthy California beach town and east to the wilds of Maine, Danny is an unstoppable force. It has an almost frenetic pace.
In the new book, Rehab Run – and I don’t think I’m giving much away here, future readers – Danny is in rehab. This time, she’s in a cloistered private facility on the east coast of Canada, in Nova Scotia. And in this chapter of the Danny saga, we are entirely in one part of the world; no private planes for our heroine in this book. That being said, the action – and as I wrote it, you can be pretty sure there is a lot of action – takes place in the idyllic Annapolis Valley.
I was born and raised in the area I wrote about in Rehab Run. I have family and friends there. Those streets and lakes and woods are as familiar to me as the concrete jungle I live in now. In fact, the Annapolis Valley is where I retreated to, when I left the mess of my own life of addiction behind. While I never went to rehab myself – I white-knuckled detox and recovery on my own – and the facility Danny stays in is a figment of my imagination, I used a lot of my own experience, my own pain, and made it Danny’s. Writing about Danny’s struggles with addiction is an exorcism, of sorts, for me.
That being said, I most definitely have not walked in Danny’s shoes in most respects, I am happy to report. I have three amazing sisters, all of whom are alive and kicking. And like most of us in the real world, I don’t think I have an archenemy, and as far as I can recall no one has every shot at me with a crossbow. Really, she and I don’t have much in common, other than that pesky addiction, and the tendency to be a smart-aleck at unfortunate moments. It may sound crazy to some, but Danny really has got a life of her own, outside of my plans for her. I found that while writing Rehab Run, Danny was getting up to things that I hadn’t planned for her. As a writer, that’s both invigorating and sometimes slightly annoying, throwing my careful plot outlines out the window.
Speaking of which, one of my favourite scenes in Rehab Run involves Danny crawling out an upstairs window clad in not much more than an old pair of her late husband’s boxers. I hadn’t planned for her to do that, but Danny does what Danny does.
Myself, I’m closing my window right now against a cold, grey November morning in Toronto. I’m keeping myself firmly planted in my office chair, throwing an old cardigan over my t-shirt, and working on my plans for Danny in the next book. Which she will, undoubtedly, ignore.
(And which I can’t wait to read about Barbra!)
My Review of Rehab Run
Crack addict Danny is trying to get clean in Rose’s rehabilitation unit after a pretty tough time, but her life simply won’t settle down.
Barbra Leslie’s writing should come with a warning; if you don’t want to put your life on hold, don’t pick up one of her books because once you have, that’s it – you’re hooked. Having loved Cracked I wondered whether Rehab Run would appeal as much. It did. I couldn’t tear myself away.
It’s so difficult to review books like Rehab Run without giving away some of the plot, which in this case is twisty and compelling so that one shock for the reader follows another until you’re almost as punch-drunk as some of the characters! Rehab Run is a thrilling, heart thumping read. I kept having to put the book down to get my breath back and take in the furious pace of events, but I couldn’t leave it alone either and had to read on, almost without my own say so, so brilliant is Barbra Leslie’s storytelling. I don’t usually quote from fiction books I review for fear of spoiling the read, but if I share the first line of Rehab Run I think you’ll get an idea of Barbra Leslie’s style far more eloquently than I can express: ‘It was just my luck that I was the one who happened to to find the severed hand in the mailbox.‘
As the narrative raced along, with the frequently gruesome body count increasing, I was well out of my comfort zone, but I loved every word, even the frequent expletives as they are never out of place or gratuitous. What Barbra Leslie does so skilfully is to vary the length of her sentences so that they have maximum impact, especially at the end of chapters. She also writes with a wry, dark humour and the first person approach made it feel as if someone I knew really well, Danny, was addressing me directly as I read.
And it is Danny who really makes this series so magnetic. She is an incredible creation. She’s violent, unpredictable, feisty and volatile but equally vulnerable and sensitive when it comes to those she loves. If the chips were down you’d want her on your side and to be honest, I’d be completely terrified if she were my enemy.
Whilst Rehab Run is the second in the Cracked trilogy, you don’t have to have read Cracked to appreciate and enjoy it. There are references that will help new readers and remind previous ones, but Rehab Run is a brilliant thriller as a stand alone too. I honestly, truly, can’t recommend Barbra Leslie’s writing highly enough. If you love crime thrillers and you haven’t read Cracked or Rehab Run you’re really missing out.
About Barbra Leslie
Barbra Leslie studied film and theatre at York University, then English at University of Toronto. She has published numerous stories in literary magazines, novels, and a screenplay. She’s been a marketing manager for a major law firm, a court reporter, and a criminal law issues officer for a government ministry.