That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani

Author : Tariq Ashkanani
Published : October 1, 2021 by Thomas & Mercer
269 pages
Kindle Edition

From the very first pages this book hooked me in. Whether it was the pacing and action right off the bat as Detective Levine finds himself at the scene of a grisly murder, a murder in which a woman was left out in the snow, strangled to death and with her eyes roughly gouged out and missing, or the distinctly crime noir feeling voice from the wholly first person point of view, this novel comes out of the gate with a mood that immediately had me wanting more. 

Welcome to Cooper
Title: Welcome to Cooper
Page Count: 269
Published: 10/01/2021
Categories: ,
Hoping for a fresh start after a forced transfer from Washington DC, Detective Levine finds himself on the scene of a grisly murder in the small town of Cooper, Nebraska. Will he find a fresh start or will the history of crooked cops, murder, and poor decisions follow him to the middle of nowhere?

While the mystery deepens we are treated to a story that feels like a modern day hard-boiled detective story mixed with gritty noir vibes you’d get from video games like Max Payne or films like Sin City. 

Our main character, Detective Thomas Levine, is battered and flawed with a dark past. He’s wrestling with demons from DC and wants nothing more than to be able to leave the past behind. Of course, the small town of Cooper has other plans for him as he’s quickly rolled up in a new mess full of dirty cops, blackmail, murder, and ties to things bigger than he could have imagined. 

In many ways this story reminded me of one of my favorite films, Fargo, though this story feels much more bleak. That may be due to the winter in the midwest setting, though the blunt voice of Levine contributes to the lack of hope in a big way. 

As the story unfolds over the course of just a few weeks, I found myself engaged and still unsure of how the ending would shake out. From a “mystery/thriller” standpoint it was largely successful. There is enough there to give you an idea of where things are headed, but not so much that we spend half the book already knowing. 

After reading quite a bit of fiction from the more traditional third person point of view, it was incredibly refreshing to enjoy this blunt, gritty, and bleak first person narrative. It’s done well and serves to paint a vivid picture of life in Cooper through Levine’s eyes. 

As a character, however, I found myself wanting to slap the shit out of Detective Levine as he, at nearly every opportunity, continues to make the dumbest decisions possible. While it helps push the story forward, it’s incredibly frustrating because so often I couldn’t identify with or connect with why on earth he would do the things he’s choosing to do. 

Even with all of that, up until the very end, this book was a solid 4 star read. I loved the first person, bleak and bitter feeling of this story and even though the story wasn’t “perfect” and is frankly full of a lot of head-scratch worthy moments in the plot, the voice of this book brought such vivid imagery to my imagination as I read it that I was enjoying it quite a bit. 

But as the ending barrels forward like a train off the rails, there is a pretty big twist, and more importantly, change in character perspective, that really left me feeling a bit unsure if I thought it was a brilliant ending or a total bait and switch that ruined an otherwise fun story. 

I won’t say much more than that in order to prevent any spoilers,  but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ending, and specifically the viewpoint shift that happens towards the end, if you give this one a read. 

If you’re looking for a bleak, gritty, murder mystery featuring plenty of dirty cops and corruption, Welcome to Cooper will be a highly enjoyable read for you. If you enjoyed films like Fargo, Sin City, or even many of the great mobster films like Goodfellas, you’ll probably enjoy this one as well. And if you’ve not read many books in the first person point of view, it’s a wonderful experience that is much different than the more traditional third person perspective, even though the character here makes some completely insane decisions time and time again. But be prepared for the twist at the end, both in terms of the plot/story and the writing choices made to end this novel, as for me they knocked this book down slightly in my enjoyment. Primarily because the shift felt unnecessary and a little detrimental to an otherwise solid story. Obviously, your mileage may vary on that point, and I still recommend this book for any fans of the genre. 

Welcome to Cooper by Tariq Ashkanani gets 3.5 out of 5


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