From Kirkus Reviews
Brown’s debut novel recounts how a young woman’s murder affects the lives of childhood friends.
In the early 20th century, three adolescent boys—Nickels, Kurt and Charlie—are the most loyal of chums. They each face their share of hardships, but none so difficult as Nickels’ father’s imprisonment for a murder he didn’t commit. The man was a father to all three boys; Charlie’s dad is a hapless drunk, and Kurt lost his father at a young age to pneumonia. Life goes on, inside and outside prison walls, until the friends learn that revenge against the real killer is in sight. The account is narrated by Nicky’s granddaughter, who gathered the information from her family. This approach adds a sense of authenticity and casts the tale as a recollection. Characters seem to arrive already defined, as they would in memory.
The three boys are the indisputable heroes, and the villains are blatantly evil—Russell Cantrell, a rich lawyer who’s introduced as he accuses someone else for a crime he committed (he’s only 13 at the time), and his assistant/chauffeur, Voigt, whose hands are dirty almost from the get-go. The murder is incidental to the narrative, and the murderer’s identity is never really in question. Still, a generous amount of suspense comes with the revelation of the victim’s name and the exact date and location of the murder. The novel recreates an era as it follow the boys’ lives from World War I through their adulthood and into the Great Depression. Several issues faced by the characters are still relevant today, such as corruption and bigotry—Nicky and his Polish family are often vulgarly called “Polacks.” But it is the portrayal of real-world history—the height of Prohibition, the early days of cinema—that makes the book such a gem.
A nostalgic, authentic novel that charms with its vintage hue.
5 stars, Great Original Story
Zemsta by author Victoria Brown is a refreshingly original story about three boyhood friends in Prohibition-era Akron, Ohio whose childhood abruptly ends when the father of one is wrongfully imprisoned for murder.
5 stars, A Must-Read for Historical Fiction and Suspense Fans!
Masterly crafted and peppered with historical facts, Victoria Brown’s debut novel takes place during the years of Prohibition in the unlikely setting of Akron, Ohio. Brown knows how to write a fast-paced suspense novel that will keep you reading.
4 stars, This Story Grabs You by the Shirt Collar and Doesn’t Let Go
As a reader of historical fiction, I was intrigued by the premise of Zemsta, and I found the fast-and-loose Prohibition era fascinating. Zemsta gave me an insight into the 1920s and what it was like to be an immigrant at that time.
5 stars, Murder and Suspense in 1920s Akron Adds Up to a Fast-Paced and Fascinating Read
I am so impressed when a new author creates such detailed and rich characters who are also believable. When I read that Zemsta takes place in Akron, Ohio during Prohibition, I didn’t think it would be interesting, but I was wrong. Akron/Cleveland in the 1920s makes for a fascinating location.
5 stars, An Unputdownable, Face-Paced Read
I started reading Zemsta yesterday, stayed up until 2 a.m., and just finished it. Once it gets going, it’s unputdownable! I don’t like books with a lot of gratuitous description, and I thank the author for keeping her words lean and germane to the story. It keeps the pace moving along.
5 stars, Rich, Gripping and What a Surprise at the End!
Strong characters, deep relationships and rich historical detail all together in a fast-paced and fascinating read. You will be pulled into the story and will care deeply about what transpires. The suspense builds as you live through the shocking events the characters endured.
4 stars, Great Characters, Good Plot, and Surprise Ending to Boot
Zemsta, by first-time author Victoria Brown is a quality novel from a very promising author. We are introduced early on to three twelve-year-old boys in 1920s Akron. Kurt Becker, Nickels Jablonski, and Charlie O’Brien are obsessed with the Cleveland Indians, and they form a club they dub “The Tribe.”
5 stars, Excellent and Riveting Story
I came upon this book by chance and found I couldn’t wait to get back to it each time I had to put it down. It is almost a good versus evil, rich versus poor, and basic good guy versus bad guy scenario. Get this book. You will not be disappointed.
5 stars, Beautiful and Complex Characters Make This Story Hard to Put Down
Zemsta is the type of novel that hooks you right from the beginning. What I liked most about Zemsta were the characters. The author did a great job on developing characterization, and by the end of the book I felt as if I were a part of their lives. This made it easy to connect to the book and become engaged right from the very beginning. Read more
4 stars, First-time Novelist Treats Us to a Convincing Tale of Murder and Treachery in Prohibition-era Akron
Three twelve-year-old boys in 1914 Akron, Ohio, swear eternal friendship. They call themselves “The Tribe,” and devise secret rituals, as twelve-year-old boys have done throughout human history. Kurt is from a poor Lutheran family that runs a boarding house. Charlie O’Brien is Irish. Albert “Nickels” Jablonski is from Polish immigrants.