Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 25 September 2021)
Series: Warhammer Crime
Length: 9 hours and 52 minutes
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Prepare for a gruesome and dark murder mystery novel in the gritty Warhammer 40,000 universe with the incredible and awesome Warhammer Crime novel, Grim Repast by Marc Collins.
I have made no secret of the fact that I am currently in the middle of a big Warhammer reading frenzy, having recently reviewed several awesome books, including two novels in my last Throwback Thursday posts (Xenos by Dan Abnett and Deus Encarmine by James Swallow). However, I am still not done with the tie-in books in this very cool franchise as I have just finished another outstanding read, this time a book which is part of the Warhammer Crime sub-series.
The Warhammer Crime books are a fantastic and captivating series which, as the name suggests, blends crime fiction storylines with the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe. All set within the tortured and sprawling human city of Varangantua, these great novels tell a range of entertaining and complex crime stories, including dark murder mysteries and elaborate thrillers, which make great use of the gothic futuristic setting. I have so far enjoyed two Warhammer Crime entries, Dredge Runners and The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, both of which were pretty epic reads. These initial awesome reads really sold the Warhammer Crime series to me, and I have been interested in enjoying another entry. I ended up choosing the great sounding read, Grim Repast, by rising Warhammer author Marc Collins. One of Collins’s first full-length novels, Grim Repast is an exceptional read with one of the darkest crime narratives I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
“This city eats men….”
Veteran probator Quillon Drask thinks that he has seen all the dangers, depravities and villains that Varangantua has to offer, but he is about to discover a whole new level of horror. Already traumatised and ostracised after his last lethal case and the betrayal that accompanied it, Drask’s first new investigation is not the simple job he was hoping for, as a body has been found in the dying district of Polaris. The victim, a businessman on the wrong side of town, has been gruesomely mutilated, the implications of his injuries have frightening implications.
As more bodies are discovered, Drask finds himself chasing after a deadly killer who murders and dismembers without compunction and who has a sudden obsession with tormenting Drask. Forced to play a deadly game that uncovers the corruption of his own organisation and sets him against the city’s elite, Drask finds himself alone and afraid against an enemy he doesn’t understand. Only his twisted insights into the criminal mind, as well as the lessons of his career and devious dead mentor, offer the answers that he needs to solve the case and stop the killer. However, not even Drask’s dark mind can comprehend the true horrors that lie beneath his city, one that connects to Varangantua’s past and a dangerous hunger that has always controlled people like him.
Wow, Marc Collins really came out swinging with this epic and outstanding Warhammer Crime entry. Grim Repast is probably one of the best pure mystery novels set in the Warhammer universe that I have so far read, and I loved how seamlessly Collins was able to blend a dark, psychological crime fiction narrative with the grim and repressive atmosphere of a Warhammer 40,000 city.
Collins has cooked up a pretty wicked story for Grim Repast, which brings together multiple elements from across the genres to really highlight just how epic and complex a Warhammer story can be. Following the compelling and damaged protagonist and narrator Probator Quillon Drask through the deadly streets of Varangantua as he chases after a lethal serial killer, Grim Repast is first and foremost a crime novel, and one that really grabs the reader’s attention. Coming off as a dark psychological thriller with classic noir detective elements to it, the protagonist is forced to delve into the darkest heart of his massive, gothic city when he investigates several connected murders whose victims have been butchered in inventive and dark ways.
Collins sets up the case extremely well and then adds some intriguing complications to it where Drask is forced to investigate against the opposition of his bosses and their corporate controllers. Bringing together a ton of character growth, disturbing developments in the murder case, as well as some fun action as Drask comes face-to-face with the killer in disguise, the plot moves quickly, and you are soon very hooked on finding the killer and the people pulling the strings behind them. Forced to contend with the interference of a giant corporation, the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a dark conspiracy and, after the typical cop requirement of being suspended without his gun or badge, investigates on his own. The mystery itself is well-set out and slowly unfolds, even if the overall culprit behind it isn’t too surprising. However, the obvious suspect isn’t a narrative weakness, as the power of the story revolves around the protagonist fighting through the corruption and the insanity to confront his suspect, as well as the wider implications and horrors his investigation reveal. The last third of the story is particularly brutal and grim as the protagonist uncovers some pretty horrendous crimes tied into the dark past of Varangantua, and is forced to face them by himself. Everything ends in a pretty bloody manner, and I had a wonderful time seeing how this entire awesome crime narrative came together. I loved the cool conclusion of this book, and the hints at some potential adventures for this character is something I would be extremely keen for.
This was a very well written book, and I really appreciated how Collins was able to tell such an effective and powerful story. Featuring a quick pace and a brilliant focus on a very damaged protagonist, Grim Repast keeps you on your toes the entire time, and I loved how well it blended multiple crime fiction elements for the story while also making full use of the grim Warhammer setting. The crime itself has some outstanding elements to it, and I was getting some major Jack the Ripper vibes from the plot as Drask receives several taunting notes from the killer. Collins really brings about a dark and desperate tone around the characters and the city itself, and this lends itself perfectly to the complex crimes, especially as the murders have far deeper meaning and consequences than are initially seen. The use of corruption and dangerous corporations helped to ensure that the character had even more mysteries and obstacles to overcome, which I thought was an outstanding bonus hook to the story. The fantastic focus on murder and mystery rather than on wider universe elements ensures that Grim Repast also serves as a pretty good entry into Warhammer 40,000 fiction, especially for crime fiction lovers. While some elements of the story hint or briefly discuss larger events or bits of the universe’s wider lore, you really don’t need to understand it to enjoy this book, and anybody who loves a complex and gloomy crime fiction can easily have their first taste of Warhammer fiction here without any issues.
Perhaps one of the best elements of Grim Repast that Collins featured was the setting of Varangantua itself. While the continent-spanning city of Varangantua has appeared in the other Warhammer Crime books, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how good a setting it is until reading Grim Repast. Collins sets out to make the city as dreary, deadly and dark as possible, and you find yourself getting lost amongst its constricting streets, compelling people and many hidden dangers. The author honestly sets the city up as a character in itself, and it is quite powerful to see the protagonist move amongst its streets as Varangantua works to consume him, mind, body and soul. To just make things a little grimmer, Collins chooses to set most of the story in the section of the city known as Polaris, an icy, desolate part of town that is slowly dying due to a lack of commerce. I love how Polaris’s fortunes seem to match that of the protagonist himself, and Collins really amps up the noir vibes of Polaris with a ton of neon signs, dingy apartments and corrupt cops, making it feel that little bit more like a classic police story.
However, no matter how dingy and gothic Varangantua may be, it is still a futuristic city, so the universe’s advanced technology and other wider Warhammer elements are integrated into the city as well. There are some great scenes where the city’s law enforcement utilises interesting investigation methods to solve the brutal murders, and I liked seeing the set up of a police force within the Warhammer 40,000 setting, especially as it is as corrupt or degraded as most things within the Imperium of Man. I also really enjoyed how Collins was able to tie the mystery into the history of the city itself, with key parts of Varangantua’s past coming to the surface during the course of Grim Repast. This gives the book a lot more substance when it is fully revealed, especially as it increases the overall stakes of the book, and I really appreciated and enjoyed how Collin’s utilised this brilliant setting throughout his book.
I also have to highlight the outstanding central protagonist and point-of-view character, Quillon Drask. Collins created a wonderful character in Drask, a beaten down and emotionally damaged cop, reminiscent of classic pulp or noir detectives and investigators. Still emotionally traumatised by the betrayal of his mentor during the last case, Drask attempts to find some normalcy in his work. However, Drask is now isolated from the rest of his force, not just because of his propensity for finding the weirdest cases, but because of the taint surrounding his mentor. Drask channels much of his anger and trauma into the new case, but he soon confronts forces that even he can’t fight through. His obsession with this new case, his well-founded hatred of the aristocracy, and his desire for redemption, lead him to continue his investigation despite his boss’s orders, which leads him into all manner of trouble. Collins did an outstanding job showcasing this character’s intense mental trauma throughout Grim Repast, and he really comes across as a complex and dark individual. Despite being a troubled soul, you can’t help but like Drask, as his grim stubbornness just keeps forcing him towards the abyss, and nothing he does in the book, not even solving the murders, brings him any real comfort. I loved how Collins also explored his penchant for getting into the darkest parts of the human mind and empathising with killers, and he reminded me a bit of Will Graham from the Hannibal Lector franchise, which isn’t too surprising considering that there are some major Thomas Harris influences in this book. Drask gives a great running commentary on his dark observations of the city around him, and Collins really dives into the mind of his character throughout the course of the book. This really adds to the book’s overall tone and quality, and I absolutely loved how Collins set out his central protagonist.
If I were to make one major complaint about Grim Repast, it would be that Collins relied a little too much on people reading his short story, Cold Cases, first. Appearing in the Warhammer Crime anthology book, No Good Men, Cold Cases was the previous (and first) appearance of Quillon Drask, in which he hunted down another notorious killer. Collins brought up Cold Cases multiple times throughout the course of Grim Repast, as the events helped form the protagonist and led to his mental/profession state in Grim Repast. While I appreciate that Collins was trying to tie his new book back into this introductory story, I found it a bit confusing and irritating at times, mainly because I haven’t read Cold Cases. I kind of got a little tired of the continued references to Cold Cases throughout Grim Repast, as it messed with the initial flow and enjoyment of this novel. While you can pick up the events of Cold Cases through context as Grim Repast continues, I felt that Collins could have either eased up on the references a little or featured a better summary of this short story at the start, especially as it was such a big part of the protagonist’s motivations. While this wasn’t a massive issue in my enjoyment of Grim Repast, it bugged me the entire way through, and it is something readers interested in Grim Repast should be aware of. Overall, though, this was a pretty epic read, and I would recommend it, even with this issue.
To no-one’s surprise I ended up listening to the Grim Repast audiobook, which was pretty damn awesome. I have so much love for Warhammer 40,000 audiobooks, especially as they are always so successful at capturing the dark tone of the settings as well as the complex stories. I felt that Grim Repast was a particularly good example of this, as its audiobook really drew the reader into the cold surrounds of Varangantua and refused to let you leave. It helped that Grim Repast was narrated by the highly talented Richard Reed, who previously impressed me with his narration of Nate Crowley’s The Twice-Dead King books, Ruin and Reign. Reed has a naturally tough and rugged voice that does Grim Repast’s story a lot of justice, as his tones perfectly fit the noir-esque city of Varangantua. I especially enjoyed how he portrayed Quillon Drask throughout the book, giving him a very gravelly tone that showcased his gruff exterior, while also expertly conveying the protagonist’s inner turmoil and pain. You really get the full sense of who Drask is through Reed’s great voice work, and I really cannot emphasise how much value Reed’s narration added to this awesome audiobook. With a runtime of just under 10 hours, Grim Repast is an easy audiobook to quickly power through, and you will really find yourself getting dragged into this elaborate and powerful tale in this format.
Fans of crime fiction, Warhammer fiction and everything in between should look no further than Grim Repast by Marc Collins for their next epic read. Bringing together a complex and twisted murder mystery with the iconic setting of Varangantua in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Grim Repast is an outstanding amalgamation of mystery, a dark psychological thriller, and the madness of the grim Warhammer 40,000 future, all of which makes for one hell of a dark and emotionally charged story. I had an amazing time reading this powerful read, and it comes very highly recommended.