...[a] superb debut...a novel steeped in existentialism while delivering gun molls, drunken wastrels and purebred thugs. ... Akers’s choice to spotlight a sleuth preoccupied by 'those impossible puzzles that burrow into our brains like splinters' is viscerally effective. In this world, a missing coffeepot can mean more than a murder, and the unbearably pure joy of baseball statistics can sustain a lost soul. An alcoholic father could ruin someone’s life, yes — but so could having the fragment of a tune stuck in one’s head for decades ... A world that could be completely unwieldy is rendered tangible in the sounds of street music, glimpses of skittering shadows and whiffs of violent smells. One cannot effectively borrow from the horror genre as freely as Akers does without concrete imagery to sustain the imagination. His prose is sharply crystalline, especially when describing minute, bittersweet and even ugly moments ... Westside suffers from overabundance, but such is only natural for a novel in which a lush entropic force has swallowed the West Village.
...a fantasy novel that is both literary and convention bending, reading as horror, crime fiction, dark noir, pulp slasher novel, action, and adventure gaming script, hidden-door-anthropological-history, delayed coming-of-age novel ...gumshoe mystery, a love letter to pre-Prohibition New York City, and—would you believe?—a disquieting dystopian fable reminiscent of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. ... [Westside is all of those things simultaneously, using only one narrator and one point of view to tell a complex story, and yes, (for the most part) it works, thanks in no small part to Akers’ talent for staying in tense control of his story while delivering heady, over-the-top prose and quick-paced Raymond Chandler-like dialogue... Beverly Cleary once said great fiction should be, above all things, a pleasure to read, and Westside is certainly that, and then some.
Westside proceeds at an unrelenting pace. Each time Gilda escapes one trap, she runs immediately into something worse. Akers finds time, though, to inject the prose with vivid descriptions ... With its cast of colorful villains and its brilliantly realized metropolitan landscape, Westside is likely the first of a series, giving readers more chances to visit Akers’s creepy yet recognizable world.
Almost instantly, Westside grabbed my attention—from the amazing dialogue to the smallest bits of world-building, mixed in with a dash of the real world hidden within its core, I was dragged feet first within the world of Gilda Carr; and in all honesty, I cannot help but deny that I felt as if I was solving all Gilda’s small mysteries with her. But I cannot help but say that there were some parts within Westside that did not sit well with me—the huge cast of characters and the plentiful side plots going on. While I can understand that those may be essential for the novel itself, I just found it way too difficult to keep myself up to date on who was up to what and so forth.
...an addictively readable fusion of mystery, dark fantasy, alternate history, and existential horror ... The seamless blending of genre elements creates a fresh and unpredictable narrative, but the real power here comes from Akers’ focus on description throughout. Masterful worldbuilding, character development, and attention to dark atmospherics make for a fully immersive read in which even secondary characters are memorable ... The cast of deeply developed characters and the richly envisioned setting are perfectly complemented by a breakneck-paced and action-packed storyline. It’s like a literary shot of Prohibition-era rotgut moonshine—bracing, quite possibly hallucination-inducing, and unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
...[a] highly entertaining debut ... A cast of meticulously developed and memorable characters as well as strong worldbuilding and atmospherics more than compensate for the sometimes flimsy supernatural thread. Memorable prose is a plus...Fans of genre-bending fiction will relish this inventive mix of mystery and the paranormal.