Bruen, Ken - 'London Boulevard'
Just released from prison where he served three years for GBH, a crime he has no memory of committing, Mitchell is hoping to make a clean start, but he is contacted by his ex-mate who is working for Robert Gant, a crime boss who wants 'Mitch' to join him. To avoid getting caught up in his plans, Mitch agrees to work doing handy man/chauffeur jobs at the expensive mansion of a faded movie actress. This is a variation on the plot of Sunset Boulevard, but in a London setting.
Mitch in prison was very bored and to relieve the monotony he read a lot of crime fiction. It seems the most favoured authors were Lawrence Block, in particular the Matt Scudder series and Charles Willeford's MIAMI BLUES and SIDE-SWIPE. Mitch was most influenced by these books and refers to them several times. The author seems to write in the manner of Charles Willeford, with the humour that that author employed to soften the savagery that is typified in the book.
Mitch has to agree to accompany a loan shark, touring a couple of tenement blocks of council flats collecting their dues but fortunately, all clients pay up promptly and Mitch does not have to display any muscle. He feels a great sympathy for these poor people who have to borrow small sums at extortionate rates of interest, just to survive, because they cannot get credit through legitimate sources. Mitch has a sister who survives by shop lifting and he feels very protective towards her, but tries to shield her from the trouble he faces by keeping her away from him.
Mitch is a hard man who is frightened that because of his past, he'll be forced to lead a crooked live and end up once again doing hard time. He doesn't want to do that at any cost, so he persists with the faded actress, doing the odd jobs, loving her, receiving cars and cash and worrying that his life will come to an end and he'll be forced to return to his criminal past. Unfortunately, things go wrong, his past catches up with him and people start getting hurt and he's forced to take revenge.
I thought that this was an absolutely scorcher of a book. Very well plotted and whilst short, so exciting you did not want to put it down. Unusually, told in first person, in a diary form, "after breakfast I..." and so on. This Irish author has written quite a lot of books before and I recall enjoying SANCTUARY which features his Galway, Ireland based private investigator Jack Taylor. I'll certainly look out for his name in the future, as this book was a great entertainment and the hours just shot by.
Terry Halligan, England