😀 😀 😀 😀 😀
Aspiring true crime writer Luke Considine is looking for the perfect case to form the basis of his first book. When he is cheated out of the story he has been working on and at the same time has a bad relationship break-up, he moves to Brighton on a whim, and there he comes across the perfect subject – Joss Grand, onetime gangster, now philanthropist and local legend. And to make his story even more interesting, the long-ago murder of Joss’s partner in crime remains unsolved. But though Joss may be old now, he still has an aura of danger and those who know him warn Luke to steer clear…
As Luke investigates, he stirs up old memories and soon finds his life in danger. Will he be able to get to the truth before it’s too late? And is the danger coming from more than one direction – if so, whom can he trust? The plot has all the elements of the standard thriller, but the quality of the characterisation and the strong sense of place lift it well above average.
Luke is a likeable and credible lead, and the breakdown of his relationship with his lover Jem is portrayed very believably. I found it refreshing that Kelly managed to include a gay relationship without allowing ‘the gay lifestyle’ to become the main focus of the book, as tends to happen all too often. Instead, as Jem becomes ever more out of control and threatening, Kelly concentrates on the psychology of him as a man, rather than as a gay man. And Luke stays realistic all the way through – he doesn’t suddenly turn into an all-action superhero in the last few chapters.
The character of Joss is nicely ambiguous. Although he undoubtedly did some very bad things when he was a young man, he has lived a seemingly respectable life for many years, using his wealth to fund many projects around Brighton, so that he is now seen as a pillar of the community. But that wealth, though earned via legitimate enterprises, grew out of the dirty money that Joss made running protection rackets in the ’60s. So the question is one of redemption – can decades of good works wipe out the crimes of the past? That’s assuming that Joss is clean now – or could his legitimate businesses be hiding something darker? Old and ill though he is, there’s no doubt that Joss still enjoys knowing that people fear him…
The descriptions of Brighton, both present day and in the sense Kelly gives us of the past, are convincing. We see the touristy seaside town with its gaudy lights and seafront entertainments, but we get to see a darker underbelly too; especially in the Brighton of the ’50s and ’60s – Kelly directly alludes to Greene’s Brighton Rock, and the feeling of simmering violence amongst the Brighton gangsters is set well into the context of the time of the Kray twins’ rule in London’s East End.
All round, I found this an enjoyable and very well written thriller – good plot, strong descriptive writing and great characterisation. Highly recommended, and thanks again to Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books whose excellent review brought this book and author to my attention.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton.