Book review: London Boulevard

London Boulevard, Ken Bruen, 2001

I’d not come across Ken Bruen before being sent this book (& one by Dennis Lehane which I’ll get to in the next couple of weeks) by Lynsey Dallady of Transworld when she had a big give-away recently. On the strength of this, though, I will definitely be looking out for more of his books.

The first thing that hits you about this book is the voice of the narrator. It is like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels on speed. Mitchell is a hard man, a London villain who takes shit from nobody. He reads and quotes from crime authors, poets and popular films.

Mitchell is out after three years in prison and determined not to return but things have a way of happening to him. A mate picks him up, gives him somewhere to live and offers him work. The mate has taken up loan sharking and he wants Mitchell along on collections, as protection and persuasion. He agrees.

Later, on the way to his coming out celebration, he rescues a young woman from muggers, crippling one of them in the process. She puts him in the way of another job, as handyman to her aunt. The aunt is an old once-great actress who lives in a grand house with a dedicated butler. Mitchell takes the job and soon becomes the old woman’s favourite toy. Is the title starting to make sense now? But Mitchell is no Joe Gillis.

Finally, he comes to the attention of a psychopathic gang lord who wants him on his team.

Added to all this is Briony, Mitchell’s little sister. She is not often in the land of the sane, frequently exasperating Mitchell, but he loves her and does his best to smooth out life’s bumpy patches for her.

This is a brilliant, must-read novel for anyone who likes sharp dialogue and violent (but not too graphic) anti-heroes. A word of warning, though. Ignore anything you read about the film being made of this book. From what I can see, its only resemblance to the book is the title and character names. The characters and, especially, the plot are quite different. The comments for the film on IMDB are not promising. Do yourself a favour and get the book instead.

Posted on March 15, 2011, in Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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