LONDON BOULEVARD by Ken Bruen
I finally got around to “discovering” Irish crime writer Ken Bruen. I’m one of those slow learners, and – yes – I occasionally frustrate my wife because I don’t like to take advice. I prefer to learn things primarily on my own. My life is harder that way, but it’s also more interesting on the whole.
This book caught my attention because it’s now a movie starring Colin Farrell, an actor I like to watch when he’s got a good part that suits him. I think the role of Mitchell (the main character in London Boulevard) is going to fit him like a hand in a glove.
Mitchell is a man of violence, an habitual criminal, who has a code of ethics and loyalty that gets him in trouble and makes him all the more interesting. The book opens up like so many crime novels have, with Mitchell just getting out of prison and moving straight back in with the old crowd.
But Bruen immediately twists things up by shoving Mitchell into a make-it or break-it situation that he likes and distrusts at the same time. Add to that Mitchell’s semi-deranged sister, Briony, and this potboiler starts to simmer in the first chapter.
Bruen isn’t content at that either. He throws in an old, reclusive actress that punches Mitchell’s buttons in all the wrong ways, has a mysterious butler with a sordid and intriguing past, and a secret that landed Mitchell in prison that is ready to explode.
The first-person narrative style is really lean, stripped down to bone and sinew, and the rocketing pace of the plot makes the book run like it’s in warp drive. Bruen gets directly to the heart of every scene and pounds it like a blacksmith working metal on an anvil.
I couldn’t stop turning pages on this one, following every kink and surprise and low blow like a hound on a fox. Even as skilled and experienced as I am in the wiles of authors and twisty books, Bruen had me jumping at shadows and still being surprised at the characters and the situations.
Colin Farrell and the movie guys have got their work cut out for them. I’m afraid this is gonna be one of those times that the book is much, MUCH better than the movie. Bruen has a magic and mastery with words that just don’t translate to the big screen.