The first thing I need to say about this book is I enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for what could loosely be called noir, and I’m a sucker for humour. I’m more than a sucker for Marlowe and Hammett, especially when they’re being funny. This book is a brave attempt to get up there with them.
Some of the writing is terrific, although Terry Murphy starts out ploughing a lonely furrow. Weighton is a run-down northern town that us run-down northerners recognize and know very well. Nothing is classy, and even the criminals are seedily pathetic rather than terrifying. Our private eye has joined that ignoble band of (probable) no-hopers because, frankly, there’s (probably) nothing else to do to earn a living.
He’s good at electronic games, and going to the pub, and his idea of a really classy vehicle is a mountain bike. No doubt a top-class example of the animal, but, for God’s sake, a push-bike. Very occasionally he gets lucky, and borrows a scooter off a mate. A motor scooter, no less! We’re on the up and up.
So there you have the basic situation. Eddie picks up his first case on a Friday, and it’s going to be an earner (by Weighton standards). Unfortunately, a quarter of an hour after talking to her on the phone, Eddie finds his client dead. And not long after that, he’s being beaten to a pulp by a very very heavy.
How to describe Tommy? Take big, then multiply. That was just his head. A grey-tinged, close-cropped head that dove-tailed into a tank of a body. His narrow set, Dead Sea eyes huddled around a large claw of a nose. When he managed to form proper words, which was rare, I could see the unhappy extent of his crooked teeth.
From there on, the book moves at a cracking pace, which involves corrupt local government officials, outright criminals, a fair amount of violence, and a pleasant little love interest that is clearly going to run and run in subsequent adventures.
Before the weekend’s less than one day old, Eddie is wanted by the police (only for murder, though!), targeted by the Weighton Mister Big for an ex-judical execution, and cruising for a bruising from the Mayor. Oh – and his girl friend kicks him into touch.
Two problems for me – which might not be for everybody, naturally. The plot has so many twists and turns and characters, that I quite frequently lost track. It’s the ‘curse this Kindle’ moment – you can’t riffle through the pages for an instant brainfeed. And the second one is concomitant. There are passages of explanation that I found much too long. The cutting axe, in places, was blunt.
Having said that, I did enjoy it. And it made me laugh, which is worth a lot. And I’ll read a sequel – Eddie is a jolly hero. But I think a little more of Big Tommy’s knife would have been an actual benefit.
Reviewed by Jan Needle
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