Genre: Young Adult; Crime; Thriller; Adventure
Robert Cage: alley man, racketeer… husband… father? As a young man, he was a rather ordinary fellow, if not a bit suspicious, working alongside Antonio Goodall and under Mr. Kevin Duke in the Capfield alleys as a hitman.
Sent to the town of Stalepoint on a mission, Cage finds himself inside the Peacock Theater, a brand-new, extravagant burlesque house, and the location of his next proposed pursuit. But it isn’t only the bald-headed bartender Cage keeps returning to the theater for, as, catching the eye of the theater’s poster girl, Naomi, he is determined to hold her attention. And, too distracted by his new fascination, Cage neglects the real reason he began his trips to Stalepoint, leading Mr. Duke to send Levi, a young hitman-in-training under his wing, to keep a close eye on Cage and uncover just what, and whom, he is hiding.
A whirlwind romance between Cage and Naomi commences, and Mr. Duke, determined to keep his alleys void of suspicion, attempts to cease it before Naomi becomes too much of a fair-weather liability. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and Mr. Duke won’t listen to anyone trying to stop him from keeping his beloved alleys safe, not even Antonio. But when Cage does what Mr. Duke can only describe as the unthinkable, he’s had enough…
But… why does Cage feel like he knows what’s around every corner, and where on Earth is that familiar, sour smell coming from?
Book 3 in Spiegel’s Capfield series takes a break from the Rat Pack’s adventures and gives us a look into the past events which led to Robert and Jet Cage’s terrifying game of tag. Although technically a prequel to the series, I would recommend NOT reading it first as doing so would damper the effect of the books. The story definitely lives up to the thrill ride the author created in the first two installments.
Although there are more details on other characters from before the start of book 1, it largely follows Robert Cage’s timeline from working for Mr. Duke in the alleys as a young man, his meeting and subsequent relationship with Jet’s mother, all the way to the the current state of affairs in Capfield as written in book 2. That being said, the author does not rehash the events of the other books, which keeps the story at a fast pace while also keeping the reader’s attention with new information.
In books 1 and 2, we were introduced to Robert Cage as an unhinged psycho out for blood, specifically that of his own son, Jet. However in ‘The Goodberry Man,’ we get to see how Robert slowly devolved into madness. The author did an amazing job with maintaining Robert’s known character while outlining his inherent personality traits and the string of unfortunate circumstances that became his outdoing.
I’ve always believed the best villains are ones we can relate to and despite what tidbits had been given in the first two books, this installment is tantamount for the reader’s understanding of Robert Cage. Not only that, it shares further details on Kevin Duke’s side of the story which paints a better comprehension of the gang bosses’ relationship with each other, their families, and the towns themselves.
As I stated in other reviews on this series, Kevin Duke is a family-oriented man regardless of the violent nature of his profession. ‘The Goodberry Man’ fully shows us the extent to which he cares, in his own way, about those close to him: including Cage. Time after time he is lenient with Cage in ways he would not have been for others, but even his concern for his strange family has limits. He must ensure the safety of the whole (and himself) over individuals, which leads to the assassination of Jet’s mother and Cage’s final mental break.
Always having been a paranoid man willing to commit atrocities along side his business partner Duke, Cage finds himself struggling with wanting a life with Jet and his mother versus fulfilling his duty to his gang family. In the first two books, it appears that he’s just selfish, angry, and frightened for his own well-being, but in this book, it shows that when faced with a horribly impossible decision, his mind broke and reverted to survival instinct which overrode even basic sanity. Reading this and thinking back to the other books, the reader can perfectly see how and why Cage is the way he is and his continued downward spiral.
As a fan of psychological studies, it’s amazing how well the author was able to pull everything together regarding Cage’s behavior. Having set clear personality traits for Cage in the first two books that don’t seem to have much greater meaning than ‘that’s how he is’ and ‘he’s lost his mind,’ this installment reveals that said traits were never arbitrary or mere plot device. With mental illness, there is almost always a genetic factor. It’s the reason why two people can live through the same trauma and yet only one develops PTSD. ‘The Goodberry Man’ reveals how many of his personality traits are indicative of a predisposition toward insanity and how past events triggered his current state of mind worse than it affected others in the story.
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~Sahreth ‘Baphy’ Bowden
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