Thursday, 18 May 2017

Guest Review: Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy

Bad Sons by Oliver Tidy
First self-published in the UK on the 26th January 2014. Republished by Bloodhound Books in May 2017.

Where to buy this book:
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Guest review by Tin Larrick
Tin Larrick is one of my favourite indie crime writers and you can read my reviews of his books here. Take James Ellroy, Colin Bateman, Graham Hurley, Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and Ed McBain, chuck them in a blender, add vodka, tomato juice and some neon twists and you will find yourself through the looking-glass with former cop and Sussex maniac Tin Larrick. Authentic police procedurals, dark and snaky plots, seaside noir, troubled-but-colourful cast members and a medium-rare underbelly, Larrick's stories stay rooted in the mind long after closing time.
I am eagerly looking forward to Tin's new novel, Blues With Ice, which is due out mid-July.

Tin's rating: 5 of 5 stars

“David Booker returns to Romney Marsh on the south coast of England for a holiday. He is expecting to spend time helping his aunt and uncle pack up the stock of their second-hand bookshop in preparation for a happy retirement. He arrives in Dymchurch on a miserable April night to find his relatives missing without word or clue regarding their whereabouts. As events unravel, the outlook of the local police pushes Booker to search for his own answers to the questions surrounding his family’s disappearance. To unravel the mystery he will have to put himself in danger. Will Booker find the answers he needs and make it out alive?

Tin says: BAD SONS represents the first in a third distinct series by the getting-to-be-prolific Oliver Tidy, and is another corker of a story. The first in the Booker & Cash series sees Mr Tidy taking yet another new direction in the crime genre, this time down the oft-trodden path of private investigation.

This is not a world of dingy offices, reluctant trilby-clad gumshoes and chocolate-flavoured birds of prey, however. Chief protagonist David Booker arrives home in Dymchurch to help his aunt and uncle close up their bookstore business - only to find said relatives have vanished. Booker, motivated by the need for answers he can't get from a slipshod police investigation, goes out on his own. The story snowballs from there, with buried secrets, curmudgeonly-and-possibly-crooked police inspectors and high-tide homicides aplenty.

The story itself is tight, pacy and packed with suspense. It follows a fairly linear structure - no red herrings or deus ex machina here - but the perhaps-expected last minute moustache-twirling twist of lemon is jettisoned in favour of the titular theme, and the end result is far more effective.

There are several elements that make this book stand out. First of all, the character of David Booker. Leaving a life of chaotic loose ends behind in Istanbul, he arrives in Kent in something of a fug of displacement. This is compounded when he finds the temporary rug he was hoping his aunt and uncle might provide has been pulled out from under him before he has even arrived. Thus, when we meet him, his equilibrium is already at zero, and rushes quickly into breathless negative numbers. This creates a strange, almost surreal instability about him, like returning home with extreme jetlag, or what it might feel like to come home after a long stretch inside. We never quite find out what normality looks like for him, and we are with him as he seeks answers in the name of justice.

Secondly, the `Booker & Cash story' subtitle on the cover brought to mind half-formed notions of partnerships akin to Holmes/Watson, Tubbs/Crockett, Kenzie/Gennaro or (possibly) the Lone Ranger and Tonto. So when one discovers that Cash is a cop while Booker is a victim/witness/suspect/reluctant private investigator, it injects a romantic/sexual tension that positively simmers throughout. On the back of this is Cash herself, who is well-drawn and intriguing but whose motives and ambitions remain nicely ambiguous.

Finally, the physical setting. If you've ever been to Dymchurch, Hythe, Dungeness and the wider expanses of Romney Marsh, then you'll recognise the atmospheric bleakness as painted by the author. If you haven't, then this is as good a place to start as any before deciding if you want to visit. Couple that with the real sense of history and local knowledge in the book and you have a real depth to the setting that complements the story nicely.

BAD SONS is a gem. It has believable characters whose strengths and weaknesses are - sometimes reluctantly - brought to the surface when Fate lays events and obstacles before them; it has an intelligent and well-crafted story that excites without being sensational or gimmicky; it has an atmosphere you can almost taste and the title itself is weaved cleverly throughout as an undercurrent that gives the work a real depth. The future of the Booker & Cash partnership is wide open, and I am really looking forward to their next outing in whatever form it takes.

Thank you Tin!

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