Miller, Danny - 'Kiss Me Quick'
KISS ME QUICK is the first in a projected series of detective novels by screenwriter Danny Miller set in 1960s Britain, featuring the young DI Vince Treadwell. In the prologue we meet a manipulative gangster, Jack Regent, released from prison just before Christmas 1939. We see that Regent is thoroughly ruthless and doesn't flinch from violence up to and including murder, assisted by his loyal henchmen, the psychopathic Francis Pearce. We then fast forward nearly twenty-five years to Soho in 1964, and an ambitious, principled, young Scotland Yard detective, Vince Treadwell.
After a spot of bother whilst investigating a murder in a sleazy Soho club, involving a corrupt superior officer, an illegal hardcore porn cinema, and a nasty head injury, Vince is sent to Brighton, ostensibly to lie low, but also to investigate the whereabouts of notorious local gangster Jack Regent, a Corsican immigrant. Jack Regent vanished, shortly after the corpse of a murder victim and a knife washed up on the beach, with Regent's fingerprints on the weapon. As well as combating Corsican organised crime, the Brighton police are busy dealing with the bank holiday crowds of Mods and Rockers intent on a ruck, and with a batch of dodgy heroin that has left some users dead.
As Vince grew up in a poor area of Brighton, under the shadow of Regent as the local bogey-man, he has a personal interest in bringing him to justice. Vince has a younger brother, Vaughan, who didn't manage to escape his challenging background; he is an impecunious and somewhat hopeless and feckless drug addict,on the fringes of the underworld, even having spent some time as Pearce's driver. As Vince tries to track down Jack, he is distracted both by his brother's problems and by the strangely vulnerable beauty Bobby La Vita, Regent's current girlfriend. But Vince has dangerous enemies, as the line between police and criminal has become blurred, both in London and Brighton.
KISS ME QUICK is a stylish, well written novel with a strong eye for period detail and an intriguing, if at times slightly over-complicated plot. Vince is an appealing and convincing character, and his romance with femme fatale and gangster's moll manages to ring true. The minor characters are also well drawn, a bevy of corrupt coppers and bit players in the world that touches upon gangsterism, such as gambling, bookmaking and antique dealing. This is a highly enjoyable and skilful debut novel, and I look forward to future novels in this series.
Laura Root, England