Title: Red Hail
Author: Jamie Killen
Published: 21st of January 2020 – Red Adept Publishing
Format: Kindle edition – 358 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
I’ve had this book on my TBR since January when I signed up to Book Sirens and downloaded it, and I finally got to it yesterday and boy, I’m glad I chose this one to read first from their ARC selection. One of the people at Book Sirens reached out to me on Goodreads and told me about their website, it’s a bit like Netgalley, but you have a set amount of time to read a book from them and you can always DNF if you don’t like it or it isn’t for you. I had decided to not download a book from them for a while before I got back on track with Netgalley, but you know me, I can’t say no to a good book, so this is where we are now (hidden under a pile of books both physical and digital and slowly being consumed by guilt and fatigue). But I’ll be fine aha!
When I read the blurb for this one and saw that I had nearly 4 months to read it, I immediately downloaded it, and I’m so glad I did. Thank you to Book Sirens for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review. My opinion and ratings of this book were not in any way distorted because of this.
Professor Colin Ayres has spent years researching the strange story of Galina, Arizona, a sleepy border town ripped apart by violence and paranoia after the outbreak of a mysterious illness in 1960. Colin is certain the Galina Incident was simply a case of mass hysteria. But when his partner, Alonzo, starts exhibiting strange symptoms, Colin is shocked to realize they are the same as those that emerged in Galina decades ago.
As Alonzo’s condition worsens, Colin scrambles to piece together what really happened during that terrible summer in the past. He uncovers a story of murder, corruption, and fanaticism. The deeper he digs, the more he becomes convinced that what happened in Galina wasn’t mass hysteria after all.
When others start to develop the same eerie symptoms, Colin must confront the possibility that someone—or something—is driving the plague. Guided by rumours of a person who found a way to stop the plague in the sixties, Colin races to find answers before the disease destroys Alonzo and everyone else it touches.
Trigger Warning: This book is about a plague that happened 60 years ago and the symptoms have started up again on the 60th anniversary of this book. I would keep in mind the current state of world events if you want to read this book in case this could trigger you.
Red Hail by Jamie Killen is a science-fiction mystery standalone novel in which we follow two very interesting timelines along with a group of 3 people in each the past and the present, both having to live through the first events of the Galina Plague, come to terms with the differences it inflicts on daily lives and live with the knowledge that it could come back, or maybe has never left.
When I first read the blurb in January, obviously COVID-19 hadn’t been getting any publicity and I immediately added it to my TBR, however, reading it during lockdown and the events of this book being somewhat similar to the ones we are facing today was a bit eery. It didn’t bother me though and I flew through this book. I had started reading a book that wasn’t for me a few days ago and I decided to DNF it, so I ended up picking this one up early and it really did surprise me. It was such a great read after the last one flopped.
This book is set in 1960 in Galina, a small town near the Mexican border, but also in 2020, in different places of the United States. The chapters go from 1960 to 2020, back and forth throughout the whole book, and the points of view change as well with the chapter-date-change. If this is not your thing, I would stay away from this book because I think the thing that makes it special and the reason why I loved it so much was because of this back and forth.
We get quite a good image of Galina in 1960, but because the parts of the book set in 2020 focus more on the actual events and the people, we don’t really get a vision of where they live because we simply don’t need it. I was really fascinated by the back and forth and I was totally invested in the whole story, be it with Anza, Dove and Father Santiago in 1960 or Alonzo, Colin and Sonia in 2020.
Anza: Throughout the whole book, I think that Anza was my favourite character. We first meet her when she goes to see Dove because she is in the family way and she needs a way out, being an unmarried, 16-year-old in a mixed community in the 1960s. Even though the first view we get of Anza is a vulnerable one, as the story progresses she gets more and more strong-willed, determined, dutiful and she ends up being a very relatable and enjoyable character to read. I enjoyed seeing how she helped Dove and Father Santiago try to find out what was happening to their village and their people and what she ended up doing for future generations.
Dove: She is a lonely, 60-year-old (I think) woman, living alone in Galina and the person girls go to if they need help or advice. At first, Dove came across as a bit rough around the edges, a bit snarky and impatient, but as she got to know Anza and they spent all their time together working on finding out a connection between people, where the Plague came from, what it meant, etc, she started to open up and became a really lovely character to read about. She is definitely the sort of woman you want on your side if the world is going up in flames and people are fighting each other because they are afraid and desperate.
Father Santiago: He is the Mexican religious leader in this community. I don’t really know what religion he is, there is another priest for the whites in Galina, I didn’t pay much attention to this character because we don’t have a focus on him as we do the two other women, but I still got to know him a bit more. At the start of the story, he was quick to place the blame on sin and explain the plagues as the wrath of God, but as the story evolved, I think he became aware that religion was not the answer, so I suppose he was a modern character for his time.
Alonzo: He is the descendant of one of the characters in this book, Fernando, a Mexican teenager who is also close to Anza. He has just moved into a new house with his boyfriend Colin when the symptoms start. I do think we got more chapters set in 1960, so I don’t have as much to say about these three characters as I did the three previous ones, but he came across much like Anza and you could definitely tell that they were part of the Mexican community and felt the weight of their heritage throughout their lives.
Colin: He is the professor looking into the Galina Plagues and writing his thesis about them, but is also Alonzo’s boyfriend. It was quite strange to see this character as both the leading professor in this field and the other half of one of the people infected with the disease and living through the symptoms. He knows nearly everything there is to know about the plagues and their symptoms, but as the story progresses, he has to realise that maybe his theories were not correct. He always remains a strong character and tries to help Alonzo and Sonia any way he can and to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Sonia: She is the descendant of one of the white people in Galina, so basically one of Anza and Alonzo’s enemies. Her son Dylan is also suffering from the symptoms so she heads to Phoenix (I feel like this is where Colin and Alonzo live, but I could have my wires crossed) and decides to help the men discover the truth about the original Galina plagues and come to a conclusion before any new symptoms appear.
Illness/plague/strange symptoms: Right from the start of this book, we see the Red Hail arrive in Galina (the first event of the plagues) and in each timeline, there are more and more symptoms and more and more experiences of these symptoms, so if you don’t like reading about medical, mental, psychological, supernatural symptoms, I would stay away. I haven’t ever read a book quite like this and I have to say that from start to finish I was totally hooked. I loved how original the plot was and everything that happened just kept my attention. No one knows why the Galina Plagues happened and what they are, if they are going to stop it, before the last couple chapters of this book and even though some things were a bit obvious to me, I was still shocked by the ending and it was a great way to wrap up the whole novel.
Mystery: Obviously there is the mystery of the Galina Plagues in the 1960s when no one knew what they were, all the events were scary, especially when a new symptom arrived and there was a lot of feelings of fear, desperation and people were just trying to get to the bottom of it, or in some cases, find someone to blame. In 2020, even though Colin has researched the life out of the events of this summer in Galina and basically knows everything about it, when the symptoms start up again, it is even more frightening because they don’t know if it will end this time and the reason for these events are still a mystery to everyone. I really enjoyed reading both chronological timelines and discovering how things happened both in 1960 and in 2020 and I loved how this mystery was resolved.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, this book was very unique, original, and very special. I was expecting to like it and be enthralled, but when I first started reading it, I was immediately hooked and immerse in each person’s story.
I gave this book 4 stars because I loved it so much and had such a great time reading it, but it just wasn’t a 5-star feel, maybe because it was a bit out of my comfort zone to start off with and because the ending did seem a bit unlikely to me, although, nowadays you never do know, do you? And I suppose that I also gave this only 4 stars because I sort of want it to be a series, but it isn’t so I’m a bit disappointed, aha!
I did adore this book and I would highly recommend it to a load of people. It isn’t a full-on science fiction or a full-on mystery but both are threaded together with a story of friendship, solidarity, love, family and I just really liked it. Thank you to Book Sirens for my copy of this book.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this review. Stay safe, see you soon,
If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK (affiliate link) – Amazon FR (affiliate link) – AbeBooks (affiliate link) – The Book Depository (affiliate link) – Amazon US – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Scrib’d – Kobo