January Moon

Rated 4.83/5 based on 24 reviews
Calls that come in the middle of the night are seldom good, especially when it’s your mother and she’s hysterical because your dad’s got a dead body in his truck -- a very young dead female body in his truck, to be exact.... As Chicago homicide detective Del Carter is about to learn, life can go from damn bad to real damn bad in a heartbeat.

January Moon is a rip-roarin' read! More

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About Maureen Gill

Maureen Gill is a native Chicagoan and especially delighted that her writing style has been compared to a “gale force wind off Lake Michigan.” Her first novel, January Moon, has received excellent reviews and Maureen has also been compared to Michael Connolly and Lee Childe. January Moon is the first novel to situate female genital mutilation (FGM) at the heart of an American detective story and has been written in a refreshing new way that proves Maureen is unafraid to push boundaries and challenge conventions.

Maureen explains, “I was trained in history at Loyola University Chicago and I used my training as a historian to write January Moon. As a professionally trained historian I don’t feel bound by all the formulas and style guides or other so-called rules about fiction. I write fiction using the techniques of a historian which I can explain this way: January Moon is about a cult and how actions inside the cult by one or more crazy people changed the lives of all the main characters. If I were going to write a compelling, fascinating story about the FBI’s raid on the Branch Davidians in Waco, I’d go down there and interview the whole town, all the survivors, their families and friends, as well as all the so-called important people like the federal agents themselves or the Attorney General. I’d write the story from the ground up, not the top down, and I might begin by interviewing a local woman who was the first to see the ominous helicopters move toward the cult compound as she was hanging out her ‘wersh’ one morning. That’s how I’d build the big picture: through the interwoven stories of the little people as well as the big people. I might open the story with the comments of the woman hanging out her wash. In January Moon I felt the need to tell a remarkable story through the voices and experiences of many people; some of those people would know how the events in the story changed their lives while a few might never know but taken together their lives were all a part of the bigger story. As a historian I’m very comfortable with huge epic stories about great men but they all also contain the many voices and influences of hundreds of people. I understand how history is written and now I’ve taken my professional ability to weave a great historical story out of real facts into the world of fiction, a special place where I can actually invent the facts and spin them to my own liking with all the bias I want and no worry about footnotes and bibliographies! It’s been very liberating.”

Maureen explains her decision to go indie this way: “I received tremendous feedback from agents almost immediately after I began the query process. I was incredibly ignorant about querying but I’ve since learned I won the Lotto. I sent out less than 50 queries and within weeks was discussing the story with three important agents. Within 6 weeks of my first query I entered into a 90-day exclusive with one of them. Shortly thereafter, however, the discussion went south after they came back to me and suggested changes that would have totally altered the story. Most astonishingly, I was told I needed to ‘dumb it down’ because it was ‘too sophisticated’ for the ‘average’ American reader. I rejected that; I don’t think that’s true but even if it is, here’s the deal: I write the kind of books I like to read and I like stories with complex plots, intriguing characters, speed, surprises, and a lot of intellectual meat.”

There were several things the agent said publishers appeared to be nervous about; the first was the FGM and the other Maureen’s critique of religious extremism. “Both of those topics, especially FGM, add to January Moon’s special uniqueness. While we were in these absurd discussions I did my own extensive research about my other options. It was obvious to me, for many, many reasons, that indie was the rational way for me to go. I did so and have never looked back. I’m at a point in my life where I understand the strength of my writing and I’ve been validated as a writer in many other venues and I never believed I needed traditional publishing to validate me. I also won’t pimp my work out for any reason.”

Maureen explains further, “It surprises people that, given my training, I don’t write historical fiction. To that I say, I write contemporary historical fiction and by that I mean that I incorporate many of the hot-button issues in modern society into my stories. I do that to wedge open discussion about those topics and hopefully make readers think about a variety of important topics in a new ways.”

Maureen believes she’s been successful in this because “the one thing I hear most often about January Moon is that people have learned something they might not otherwise have known or thought they even wanted to know. People write me deeply personal emails talking about these issues and sharing their personal experiences. I’m always deeply moved by their trust and willingness to share.”

“People repeatedly tell me that they thought the FGM might be a turn off but it wasn’t. I’ve heard from men and women, Americans and Europeans, and received nothing but praise for how I handled the subject. People have thanked me for tackling it, explaining it, and not sensationalizing. I’ve been told I’ve written with class and great understanding.”

“But January is about so much more. It’s about racism, religious fanaticism, mental illness, dysfunctional families and strong families. It’s about love and hate and loss and there are several really powerful love stories that are woven throughout the story.”

“I spoke before a group of book club women in Chicago recently and was overwhelmed by their love for the story and the main characters. One woman astonished me – she could recite whole sections of the book! It’s been said that I write like a man and some readers have said they were surprised to learn I’m a woman but one lady said to me that I write like both a man and a woman. She said she heard manly voices as well as womanly voices and she strongly identified with a mother’s pain in the book. She said, ‘I know you think like a mature woman and you’re a mother.’ Some of the women told me they thought January Moon was a love story but their husbands thought it was a great cop story. I think that’s fantastic praise.”

Among other academic awards, Maureen has won four Carnegie-Mellon Foundation awards for outstanding historical research and writing. A former legal and medical researcher, paralegal and college history and philosophy teacher, Maureen uses her grasp of US history and popular culture, as well as her skills for in-depth research and analysis, to write cutting edge contemporary fiction.

January Moon is the first in her "Del Carter Calendar Series." The second book in the series, March Storm, will probably be available in the late summer or early fall 2011. Maureen is also writing a history book titled Daylight & Déjà vu. Maureen describes it as “all the good stuff you never learned in school and probably need to know now.”


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Review by: Sue Owen on Aug. 9, 2011 :
I could not put this book down. I was warned before reading it that it dealt with a sensitive subject matter particularly for a woman. So I started reading this with some trepidation. Maureen handled the subject straight forward, head on and without apology or embarrassment. Without a doubt I will be doing research and helping to raise awareness of this serious and unacceptable practice.

The story itself is a bit like Maureen. Straight forward, head on and without embarrassment. It was hard to read in places when dealing with the lowest scum of the earth and I’m sure it had to of been hard to write. I felt pain in some places and tears flowed a few times which is not normal for me.

The characters were more than believable and I was right there with them catching their backs as they confronted opposition. I was pushing and encouraging when they needed it. I reached for the phone a few times to give someone a call that I felt might benefit from a cheerful voice just to realize it was just a book. Not that I would describe this as just a book. It is far more than that.

The many sides of this book are obvious when you start reading it. Relationships are not one-sided and Maureen certainly doesn’t paint a rosy picture of life here. But what she does do is give you champions, heroes and villains and she guides you through the rough times and into the light. I treasured every page and will re-read this book.

I’m not sure if she adds the Trooper, Shadow and Wolf piece onto every version but when I read that I cried all over again. What a beautiful memory she has chosen to share with her readers and a great insight into her personal life and this just makes me adore Maureen all the more.

This is a must read and one of very few books that I will read again and again. I kept having to check the cover to makes sure I wasn’t reading a Dick Frances book. It’s a great thriller and perfect study of human-kind at its lowest and best.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)
Review by: Tyler Tichelaar on May 11, 2011 :
Move Over Michael Connelly—Maureen Gill Has Arrived!

Maureen Gill has burst onto the crime fiction scene with her new novel “January Moon.” Gill’s first novel, and the first in a projected series, features Chicago cop Del Carter, and each book in the series will be named for a different month, with “January Moon” being a great way to kick off the calendar year and a fast-paced, page-turning series.

The title of “January Moon” refers to a strange prophecy around which the crime centers. The prophecy states that “The One who will be the Final Seed of Truth will be planted in the True Mother’s Womb under the light of the brightest January Moon.” Lieutenant Del Carter becomes involved in a crime investigation that largely revolves around this prophecy when his trucker dad picks up a young adolescent girl at a truck stop to protect her from some unsavory characters only to have her end up dying in his truck. The girl, known as Sunny, turns out to be the niece of Del’s fiancée Jess. And just as shocking, Sunny has died from female genital mutilation being performed on her innocent young body.

In the investigation, Del joins forces with several other cops as well as the FBI. Among Del’s compatriots in solving the crime are Fred Wiley, a somewhat ornery homicide investigator with his own secrets about a past relationship, and an officer Wiley nicknames “Eggs” because his last name is Benedict, although “Eggs” isn’t smart enough to get the joke. While solving the crime and bringing about justice, these characters discover they have their own personal issues to work out, making the reader as or more interested in the characters and their relationships as in solving the crime.

In time, the investigation leads to a cult group on a compound in Illinois that is known as the All Faith Jerusalem Church. Sunny’s mother, Evelyn, is not only a member of the cult, but she is the one who created the prophecies. The cult claims to embrace the best of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, while rejecting that Christ is the world’s savior; instead, the cult believes a new savior will be born according to the January Moon prophecy. The leader of the cult, Jim Harte, is known as the Prophet. He claims to be a brilliant theologian, but he is also the tool of those who would use him to extort money from his followers and set up means to drain people’s bank accounts electronically. Jim is also assisted and used by his sister, my favorite character in the book, Rae Harte—who doesn’t love a good villain? Rae has become her brother’s protector and comforter, but she also has her own agenda. She is wonderfully described in the book as behaving like “the Terminator playing Blanche Dubois” and as a female Arnold Schwarzenegger. Rae was apparently sexually abused in her past, and she decided to develop the strength of a man to make sure no one can hurt her again; the other characters speculate that she is on steroids, and she nearly brings Wiley to his knees when she shakes his hand.

To say much more about the plot would be to give too much away, but I will say that author Maureen Gill has assembled a large cast of intriguing characters with plenty of subplots that all come together for a dramatic and satisfying final showdown. I was impressed by how much she included in the book, and the way she ties everything together makes the writing flow effortlessly. The cast of characters is a lot larger than the few I have mentioned here, and Gill is so talented that she can introduce a character with just a few sentences and make the reader remember who that character is even if he or she doesn’t appear until many pages later. Unlike many such novels, I was never once lost or confused. Such character development, especially of minor characters, is rare, yet Gill has mastered it.

Being from Upper Michigan, I also appreciated the introduction of “Yooper” characters, who are a bit exaggerated in their accents and strange habits, but all in good fun. Maybe if we’re lucky, in a future novel, Del and Wiley will have to chase a character into “da U.P., eh?”

“January Moon” had me hooked from the first page, and I hardly set the book down until the dramatic ending, and then I only wished the next book had been published already. The book’s 360 pages makes it a substantial read, not a quick and easily forgotten mystery, and that allowed me to enter fully into a complex fictional world that was a wholly believable depiction of Chicago and the surrounding area. Gill left me wanting more—especially to find out what will happen to the characters in future books. The series is named for Del Carter, but ultimately, Wiley is the character I most hope will show up in future books. Gill left a few things about the characters’ relationships hanging, so I suspect several of the characters will return again. If so, February can’t come soon enough for me.

Because of the pacing and character development, I don’t think I have been so hooked by a contemporary crime novel since I read Michael Connelly’s “The Poet” many years ago. For a first novel, “January Moon” is an astonishing achievement, and I hope eleven more novels will quickly follow.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and author of the award-winning “Narrow Lives”
(reviewed 2 days after purchase)
Review by: Helena Dariotis on March 8, 2011 :
Excellent book; great read! I highly recommend this book. This book received detailed reviews but no one mentioned one of the most unusual things about the author's style. Ms. Gill threw a lot of rules about writing out the window and at first I started to think she was a really inexperienced writer but so much else was right, even great and her style was so compelling that I started to think maybe something very special was happening about how she was writing. Was it deliberate on her part or not? I can't imagine but it's certainly different and it really works. She weaves multipe stories together seamlessly and in the end she really delivers. What a great ending! And a perfect set-up for a sequel. Her characters are all interesting and she's great with realistic dialogue. Her horrible She-He villain is beyond creepy. January Moon is full of drama and has some great comedic relief and I can't wait for the next book. This book raises the bar for first time self published authors. Gill is major competition.
(reviewed 4 months after purchase)
Review by: Denis Brank on Dec. 26, 2010 :
I liked it. The dialogue was realistic and the cops & FBI believable. I thought it slowed down in the middle about the jihad-wannabees but overall it’s a pretty quick read. It held my attention and there were some unexpected surprises. I’m a retired state trooper and liked reading about a state cop working a murder investigation because it’s not just big citiy cops that fight crime. I liked Fred Wiley and every cop knows a jerk like Eggs. Del Carter’s the kind of smart cop good cops respect and the other cops were real too and I’d play it just like Del (go in and tell the feebs later) under the circumstances and yes there’d be hell to pay. Most cop story writers trash the FBI or make them look ridiculous because they know cops don’t like them and cops buy cop stories but Gill was fair and accurate about the feebs. They really do some stuff very good like big sweeping interstate computer fraud so she knew where to put the feebs and make them shine and the raid on the cult was realistic in the usual screw ups that always happen. The autopsy was excellent and a surprise as I never understood FGM before and without beating the reader over the head with it Gill made her points and it was fascinating. The fight with the dog and the freaky bitch was very good and I enjoyed the twists about Kenny and Wiley and the ending was clever and I would read other books by this author. My wife is enjoying it now.
(reviewed 38 days after purchase)
Review by: MARKY DE SADE on Dec. 26, 2010 :
I bought this book on the review rcommendations and the sample download. The sample was good and so I bought the book. WRONG! Are her friends writing the reviews? If so they are being unkind.The book should stand alone. Characters introduced that disapear, for no apparent reason.When in the car with her husband he notes that she is going on one of her rants and she does that for ten or more pages and I do mean a rant,totally meaningless. The husbands character isn't real, some kind of ideal feminine view of the 'perfect' man. Way too long. Needs editing BADLY. One good part where 'eggs' a character is given his name and I will bet that was a real anecdote, and not from the writers imagination. 1/2 a star. I want my money and time back. Oh yeah the real life dog story at the back, lose it!
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)
Review by: NicoleDaines on Nov. 27, 2010 :
OUT OF THE PARK! Author Maureen Gill's debut novel "January Moon" is a home run! On every page, Gill's in-your-face writing style engaged me, holding me spellbound. Chock full of colorful characters, JM filled me up like a Thanksgiving feast. If you're a reader who's drawn to the rousing fight scenes of Lee Child: and the sly, sardonic humor of Sean Doolittle; and the intricate plotting of John LeCarre, and the swagger of Raymond Chandler, then you will fall in love with the writing of Maureen Gill. I recommend this book highly and am definitely one of her fans.
(reviewed 7 days after purchase)
Review by: Jon Meerdon on Nov. 27, 2010 :
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has a very interesting plot with a lot of surprises that are fresh and original. The characters are very believable and this writer writes really good dialogue (I hunt in the UP so it was a kick to read the Yooper talk). This book is not a piece of chiffon pie or a glass of white wine. I'd say it's more like a heaping big plate of meat and potatoes and a cold mug of good beer, very hearty and robust. I thought it was quality writing all the way and I would read other books by this author. Five stars.
(reviewed 9 days after purchase)
Review by: Merri Royce-Kadetsky on Nov. 22, 2010 :
January Moon is a really solid book you can sink your teeth into. It examines tough and meaty issues like racism, religious fundamentalism, female cutting, the ongoing tragedy of child abuse and how it warps its victims, family dynamics, and much more. There are rescued people in this book and a rescued dog and lots of drama but moments of great comic relief (Gill is wonderful at writing sardonic humor eg: "Eggs looked like it rang a bell, but not too loudly.") I think she's my new favorite writer. My son is reading it now and he likes it too (he's 29) so I think it's the kind of book that will have very large appeal. I highly recommend January Moon.
(reviewed 3 days after purchase)
Review by: Craig Dellanova on Nov. 22, 2010 :
I’m one of those guys who (this makes my feminist wife nuts) doesn’t read fiction written by women. I like cop stories and (no offense ladies) tend to think women write cop stories about female cops who secretly want to be Amish housewives and I get all kinds of mixed signals from those books. I like to keep it simple. (My wife just left the room in a snit; oh well. She can write her own review.) Anyway I just finished January Moon by Maureen Gill and I want to say Maureen proves there’s an exception to every rule. The only label you can attach to her writing is “damn good.” Get this book. You’ll enjoy it. I changed this review to add that my wife read this book over the weekend and thought it was “wonderful.”
(reviewed 6 days after purchase)
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