A MelanieM Review: From the Ashes (Boystown #6) by Marshall Thornton

Rating: 5 stars out of 5


It’s winter 1984. Private Investigator Nick Nowak has allowed his life to fall to pieces: He’s stopped taking cases, given up his apartment and taken a job as a bartender at a sleazy joint tucked under the El. All he wants to do is stay hidden and lick his wounds after the death of his lover, Detective Bert Harker.

But when the least likely person in the world shows up at the bar and asks him to take a new case, he finds himself investigating the very unsuspicious death of a priest. Nick is convinced he’s wasting his time until the clues begin to add up to something entirely unsuspected.

How does one come back from a self imposed mental and emotional death?  That’s the state that Nick Novak has put himself into after the devastating events of Murder Book (Boystown #5).  Shocked even by his own actions, Nick has given up his detection work, his apartment, and withdrawn from the few friends he had into a drunken isolation.

It takes the one person he leasts expects bringing him a case to finally draw him back into reevaluating his current affairs and where he thinks he can go from here.

Somebody needs to invent new adjectives for Marshall Thornton’s body of work. The ones we have just get overused because of novels like From the Ashes.  Words like “beautifully written, simply brilliant, and thought-provoking” are just not enough.

No, I’m not gushing.

Readers have been wondering what comes next for Nick.  How does he pick himself up?  Now we have our answer.  And it’s perfect.  Because it’s slow, punishing, and a surprise every step of the way.

Nothing is ever easy for this man. Life seems to just want to deliver the worst sort of  smackdown to him in every aspect of his life.  But eventually, up he gets.  Whether its his curiosity, or some ounce of self preservation, or determination not to let the “others” win…Nick somehow gets up and goes forward.

Thornton has always made us fall into step with this man.  Its not always been easy but we can’t help  ourselves.  Watching as Nick thinks or investigates his way through each murky, often seedy case is addictive.  So is watching the man work through his own issues past and  present (and there are many).  There are as many complications in Nick’s personal life as there are in his cases and often they overlap in surprising twisty ways.

That happens here again right from that start in the person who brings Nick the case that eventually jump starts his life again.  Of course, its going to get messy, dark, snarly, and bodies will appear.   But its also fundamentally about Nick’s loss and grieving.  It’s heartbreaking in so many ways.  Prepare yourself for that too.

Thornton uses Chicago’s many Catholic churches and parishes in this murder mystery and the fact that it’s parishioners often stayed with the  same parish and priest for years for Nick’s investigation.  It was fascinating and effective.  And I love the way the  entire story played out.

Thornton is a master at taking murder and suspense and weaving such heartfelt emotions throughout that at times you feel its so real, that Nick and the others are so much  flesh and blood, that it hurts in places to read on  (Murder Book is a prime example of that). That happens here too of course.

That we as readers have taken Nick into our hearts is due solely to Marshall Thornton, an author I love and highly recommend.  This book and series is but one place to start your introduction to him.

Yes, I highly recommend From the Ashes but its not a standalone.  It must be read in the order the books were written.  So start with the first collection and work your way here.  There’s also a terrific audiobook series, so start there if that’s more to your liking.

Cover art again is more about the emotions reflected inside and about branding the series.  I like the covers for the Pinx Video better.

Sales Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Published February 20th 2015 (first published December 1st 2013)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #6
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award Nominee (2013)


Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

By Scattered Thoughts

At over 50, I am ruled by my terriers, my gardens, and my projects. A knack for grubbing about in the woods, making mud pies, and tending to the injured worms, bugs, and occasional bird and turtle growing up eventually led me to working for the Parks. I was a park Naturalist for over 20 years, and observing Nature and her cycles still occupy my hours. From the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in the Spring to the first call of the Snow Geese heading south in the Fall, I am entranced by the seasons. For more about me see my bio on my blog.

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