The Night The Rich Men Burned Malcolm Mackay

The Night The Rich Men Burned. Malcolm Mackay

 

This book falls into a new genre for me. It’s the first time I have read a book that’s written purely from gang member perspectives.

The book starts with two young friends, Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass, looking for work, any work. They live in a rundown area of Glasgow where legal work is hard to come by so they take on a money collection for a loan shark.

I won’t spoil the book by going into detail but the rest of the story revolves around their very different journeys in the gangland life. As one flourishes and moves through the ranks the other is outcast and becomes a victim.

Their lives intertwine throughout the book and it is interesting to see the way Mackay shows the scene through different eyes. The emotionally void morals of the loan sharks and the people who work for them; the fear and downward spiral of the people they prey on.

He describes the sparring leading to an inevitable war between different gangs. The way leaders manipulate situations using thugs but never get their own hands dirty. He describes the way money lenders sell their clients debts onto ruthless collectors, and shows some of the ways the debts are collected why alluding to others.

Inescapably the book leads to a tumultuous end as the gangs try to take over the city, with Peterkinney and Glass involved to the very end.

The story is fast paced, split into short chapters that had me thinking “I’ll just read one more chapter” It was never just one more I read the book in 2 nights.

This book is dark and gritty without being gruesome. It made me think about how easy it would be to become involved in the downward spiral of owing money to a loan shark.

Above all the book is very realistic. Those of us that have had to work in the aftermath of similar events that occur in this story will recognise how accurate this book is. Most people, I hope, will only visit the scenes on pages of books. If they do they will not find a more realistic account than this.

This is the first of Malcolm Mackay’s books that I have read. It won’t be the last

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Whom Evil Touches D.E. Royce

Whom Evil Touches  D.E.Royce

 

Early in this book Royce gives us the origin of the phrase “The real McCoy”, so was this book the real McCoy.

If I was browsing book shelves, or trawling through Amazon I might have missed this book. At 203 pages it’s a bit small for me, but it was recommended to me by somebody I had been talking to on Twitter so I gave it a go.

The prologue guides us through the natural history of the New England coast and neatly ties in the start of the story.

From the start it is hard to see who the main character of the book is; but that is not a problem, all the characters have equal billing and are only on the page when they are required. This gives a round balanced and refreshingly unusual angle to the narrative that lets you see the whole picture.

The Police characters are given brief introductions, to give them personality, but none are weighed down with the usual baggage; they are there to solve the crime not to give us moral dilemmas regarding their drinking, gambling, or current divorce, at last real people as Police Officers

The characters involved in the crime, are the type of people Law and Order Officers meet on a daily basis and their characters are well described without needless flamboyancy.  

The story is one of a missing woman, Judy, who it quickly becomes obvious is dead, and the mess she has been involved in.  As the story unfolds it is apparent that the Bank in which she worked is under investigation, and working out who was involved with the irregularities at the bank seems to become central to the murder investigation.

Judy is a complex character and had lived a life of lies; but to what end, and did they lead to her being killed. Everybody she is involved with seems to have a reason to be the one that killed her. Every time you think you know who the murderer is something happens to make you change your mind.

The end comes quickly and if I’m honest a little too quickly for me but it’s not a disappointment.

Comparing books to TV series, If you like programs like Luther or Whitechapel, this book might not be for you but give it a go it’s worth it. If you prefer Midsummer Murder, or Lewis then this book will be right up your street.

Was This book the “Real McCoy” for me Yes it was and I look forward to the next one, hopefully using some of the same characters.

The Axeman’s Jazz Ray Celestin

The Axeman’s Jazz Ray Celestin

Rarely do I pick up a book based on a true event that I have never heard of; this book sent me on a bit of a hike through the internet researching the facts of a series of crimes which took place in New Orleans just after the end of the First World War, The New Orleans Axe Killer Murders, for that alone the Axe Mans Jazz was worth reading, but that’s not the only reason, this book is brilliant.

Set in 1919 the story centres on the hunt an Axeman who is killing couples in the dead of the night, unsurprisingly with an axe.

Three separate inquiries are carried out by the central characters, all cleverly and logically woven together, bringing the book to an exciting end.

Detective  Michael Talbot leads the New Orleans Police investigation. Talbot is an outcast amongst his fellow officers and struggles with a personal secret.

Luca D’Andrea, an ex-detective who is released from prison at the start of the book and investigates the murders on behalf of the Mafia.

Ida Davis a young mixed race girl who works for a Detective agency, but takes on the investigation on her own, to prove to her boss she is capable. Ida has a friend who helps her, a young Jazz Musician called Lewis (Louis) Armstrong; and yes it is that one.

Ray Celestin has written an excellent book. He has taken known facts, including a letter purportedly written by the murderer and published in a local paper, and woven them into a story that held me captivated from the start. His description of New Orleans transported me to the city in the early 20th Century. At times he draws comparisons between 1919 New Orleans and Victorian London, and of course between these murders and those of Jack the Ripper.

His characters fit so well into the story, and are so right for the time it is set in; I wondered whether they were all based on real people. The Lewis Armstrong character is heavily based on the early life of the legendary Louis Armstrong and much of the book revolves around bars and boats where he played in his early career.

The book covers the uncomfortable issue of the racism of the time well. It is clever tool that Celestin uses by having white, black and mixed race characters as the spine of his story, allowing the reader to be taken to any quarter of the city.

Celestin uses a tropical storm to bring the story to an end, like the storm itself the last part of the book builds into an intense crescendo, and like a storm once it has gone a calm settles.

It’s clever, the real Axeman Murderer was never identified but the killings did stop following the storm. Celestin uses a bit of literary licence to let the storm tidy up some lose ends but nothing that distracts from the story.

This is Ray Celestin’s first novel. I’m looking forward to his next.

If you haven’t read The Axemans Jazz yet, I envy you. All I can say is pour yourself a bourbon, put Jazz FM on the radio and cancel any appointments you’ve got for a couple of days. You are going to love it

The Verdict

A story which starts with a first-hand account of a crime, or does it.

 

The Verdict Nick Stone

After the First chapter the novel is narrated by Terry Flint, a Law Clerk who is part of the defence team at the trial of a man accused of murder. The main storey centres on the defences investigation into the crime; but the real story is of the moral dilemmas faced by Terry when he realises his once best friend Vernon James is the accused. The friendship had ended badly years before the start of the book. Throughout Terry is doing his duty trying to find evidence which will clear Vernon, but why, and if he can establish Vernon’s innocence will he?

The characters in this book are well written, Terry is somebody everybody will like, and Vernon is instantly dislikeable. Ideal for the story.

There are some points in this book which might not sit well with people who understand Police and Legal procedures, but stay with it. The irregularities have been put early in the story to give the writer a licence to return to them later, and put them right. It might not happen like this in the real world, or we’d like to think it wouldn’t, but it does make for a good story

The book is typical English Crime Drama for the first three quarters of the story, but then goes a bit Robert Ludlum in the last quarter. I have to say I didn’t think it needed to go in that direction, and if anything it spoiled what was a good mystery.

At the close of the narrative the story is ended by a series of Newspaper Clippings which are supposed to tie up the loose ends. I have to confess I didn’t like this. It made me think that the writer was struggling to find an end.

Nick Stone has written a cracking story which, in my opinion, would have benefitted from leaving out the last 25% of the narrative.

Was this one of the best books I’ve read No.

Will I give Nick Stones next book a chance? Hell yes; because if it wasn’t for the last quarter of the story, it would have been one of the best books I’ve ever read.