Book Review: Gumshoe Blues by Paul D. Brazill

It’s my turn on the Blackthorn Book Tour for Gumshoe Blues by Paul D. Brazill!

Gumshoe Blues

Following the breakdown of his marriage, in a booze-addled flash of inspiration, Peter Ord decides to become a private investigator. Dark farce and tragicomedy soon ensue. Peter must tackle many challenging cases, and when he comes under the radar of a local crime lord, he may have bitten off more than he can chew. With sidekicks, like boozy hack, Bryn Laden, failure is not an option – it’s compulsory.

My Thoughts

What a corker of a volume this is! Four stories, one a novelette in length, all told from the perspective of washed-up, hard-boiled private investigator and former English teacher Peter Ord. The opening scene of ‘Gumshoe Blues’ find Peter waking up on New Year’s Day after a night of binge drinking. I can hear U2 playing in the background, I can smell the fetid air in the grotty room. The sleaze continues on into pubs and Velvettes, a nightclub for ‘gentlemen’. We soon meet the  supporting cast of barmen, dancers, and underworld bosses make up the northern UK town of Seatown.

Throughout the volume, Brazill’s originality and imagination shine. ‘Mr Kiss and Tell’ finds a wife-beating loser and Ord as a store detective at Poundland – one of Britain’s cheap discount stores. I am reminded of ‘World of Quid’ in the opening episode of the new season  of Birds of a Feather. Stores existing to let the poor believe they can afford to shop. ‘Who Killed Skippy’ finds Ord paid to protect Craig Ferry, from himself. The mystery is solved in the end, but it is hardly the point to the story, which is rather to spotlight the iniquitous Ferry family and particularly the  loser-behemoth, Craig. ‘The Lady and The Gimp’ is an oddly charmingly bleak tale of former lead singer of a punk rock band Lightning Jones – who belongs to Spammy Spampinato doing time for a string of murders –  and Barry Blue, ‘The Gimp’, doing some handyman work at Harry Shand’s bar. His gaze lands on Jones and he falls in lust. Meanwhile, Jones hires Ord to track down his mother.

Brazill crafts strong, believable and quirky characters. The jump cuts walking us through vignettes and backstory work well. A healthy use of colloquialisms lends a gritty authenticity. Told masterfully with tremendous wit and realism in taut, punchy prose, Gumshoe Blues contributes a work of considerable merit to the noir crime stable. In all Brazill offers his readers a window on northern Britain’s underbelly, the everyday humdrum banality of struggle street existence and wrecked lives. Definitely a book to look out for.

 

About the Author

Paul D. Brazill was born in Hartlepool, England and now lives in Bydgoszcz, Poland, where he’s been TEFL teaching for more than a decade.

His books include Last Year’s Man, A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton, Small Time Crimes, and Kill Me Quick. He’s had stories published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Book Of Best British Crime 8,10 and 11, and his writing has been translated in Italian, Polish, Finnish, German and Slovenian.

You can usually find him on Twitter @PaulDBrazill and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pauldavidbrazill/

Website: https://pauldbrazill.com/

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Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Book review – Three Hours Past Midnight by Tony Knighton

Three Hours Past Midnight

About Three Hours Past Midnight

His last job a disaster, a professional thief teams with an old partner eager for one last score – a safe in the home of a wealthy Philadelphia politician. But they are not the only ones set on the cash.
His partner dead and the goods missing, he hunts for his money and the killer only to find out whether this may have been a job best left undone.

 

My thoughts

The title alone, ‘Three Hours Past Midnight’, a reference to Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s 1956 Blues classic, will flag the sort of book this is. The track could just as well be playing in the background throughout the whole story, a backbeat that echoes, even amplifies an ever-present gritty urban vibe.

The reader dives straight into the action as an unnamed professional thief accepts an impromptu job from an ex-cop, George, who has stage 4 cancer and wants to leave a little extra for his wife. When the theft of a safe from a high-profile politician goes belly up and George is shot, the narrator goes on the hunt for the culprit. Only, he soon discovers he is also being hunted. What unfolds throughout that night is an edge-of-seat ride filled with action, menace and intrigue.

Social realism in Three Hours Past Midnight is strong. Philadelphia’s underbelly of corruption and organized crime is laid bare, noir-style. The point of view is narrow, focussed, sharp and Knighton’s prose is confident, taut and economical. The author sucks the reader right into the narrator’s reality. An atmosphere of urgency and justice, or the lack thereof, pervades every page. There is a touch of Hemingway and Chandler in the writing. The plot and pacing are excellent and twists come bang on cue. Knighton crafts his supporting characters deftly, slotting in enough to give an impression, the reader’s loyalty always kept firmly in the narrator’s pocket.

In all, hard-boiled noir thrillers do not come any better than this.