London Boulevard by Ken Bruen
(Minotaur, 2009, $24.99, 250 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-56168-0)
With all the hoo-hah, fubaring and gigantic jug-flinging coming from our nation’s capitol these days, as well as daily displays of incompetence and rooster-crowing by our elected representatives of every stripe . . . I just had to take a break from the news and current events. So, paraphrasing John Prine, (one of my wife June’s favorite songwriters), I turned off the tee-vee, threw away my papers and cracked open a book by an Irish crime writer named Ken Bruen. Bruen once taught English in such places as Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia and South America. Now, he’s back at home in Galway, Ireland, writing some of the best, most unique and colorful prose on the planet. LONDON BOULEVARD, is about an ex-convict, professional criminal named Mitchell . . . we never find out if it’s his first, or last name. He’s just Mitchell. As the book opens, Mitchell is being released, after serving a three-year prison term for a crime he can’t remember, done during an alcoholic black-out. After leaving the prison gates, he commits a crime within his first five minutes as a free man. Trying to stay on the right side of the law, he takes a handyman job with a faded, aging actress, a la Sunset Boulevard starring William Holden and Gloria Swanson. He’s soon back into a life of crime however, and the spree begins. Full of plot twists, double-dealing and suspense by an absolute master of the craft, this novel will appeal to readers of hard-boiled and noir. Bruen’s dialogue is finely-crafted and spare, and he is an absolute master of sarcasm . . . which is why I like his writing so much. Other books by Ken Bruen I’ve enjoyed include Priest, Cross, and Sanctuary, all part of his Jack Taylor series, and Once Were Cops, a standalone that’s one of my favorites.