Friday, September 27, 2013

Cephalopod Coffeehouse: London Boulevard by Ken Bruen

"After I showered, I cracked a brewski and got dressed. Kept it casual. Sweatshirt and jeans. My nose was still aching, but I could live with it. Gant was hovering on the outskirts of my mind. The mental threads one makes are tenuous and treacherous. I dredged up a line. 
It's not about hatred, it's about absolute devastation." (London Boulevard, Page 164)
Welcome back everyone to September's round of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse. If you're here for the first time, the Sisterhood is glad to have you along, and feel free to visit any of the other reviews in the links below.

My choice this week is a novel I received as a freebie from my local writers' group. They have a raffle at the end of each meeting and give away about twenty books. By the time my number was called, the pickings were pretty slim, so I ended up with Ken Bruen's crime thriller London Boulevard. If you hop over to The Random Book Review you'll see I chose a denser, more literary novel with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, so it's good that I ended up with Bruen's book to review here. You'll see why in a second.

To lay a little groundwork, I'll start with the blurb on the front flap. If you don't like to know a little backstory right up front, then you can skip over this part.
When Mitchell is released from prison after serving three years for a vicious attack he doesn't even remember, Billy Norton is there to pick him up. But Norton works for Tommy Logan, a ruthless loan shark lowlife with plans Mitchell wants nothing to do with. Attempting to stay out of Logan's way, he finds work at the Holland Park mansion of faded movie actress Lillian Palmer, where he has to deal with her mysterious butler, Jordan. It isn't long before Mitchell's violent past catches up with him and people start getting hurt. When his disturbed sister Briony is threatened, Mitchell is forced to act.
Hmm...where to start. After reading the blurb again, I don't even remember who Tommy Logan is from the story (and I just finished this book a few days ago). The man Mitchell has a "hard-on" for (as it's put in the book) is a man by the name of Gant. This isn't good if I'm already getting lost when it comes to the characters in the story.

Overall, I'd say I had two annoying issues with this book. Grant it, the book is fast-paced, definitely filled with crime, sex, and bad guys (and now I'm wondering why there weren't really any good guys...), and gives you a sucker punch with how ruthless the main character seems to be. And that's problem number one for me. In the beginning of the story, Mitchell is released from a three year stint in prison for aggravated assault. The first person to say he'll become a repeat offender is the warden, and right away I wanted to root for him, thinking that he'll beat the odds.


Mitchell leaves prison and commits about twenty other crimes (maybe even more, but I lost count) before the story comes to an end. One right away in the first chapter when he breaks a window washer's arm. I figured there had to be some redeeming quality to this character. Maybe he's not into drugs? No. Okay, maybe he's not into illegal firearms? Wrong again. How about not using those illegal firearms to plug a kid in the knees with four bullets? Again, no. Let's see...he's not a womanizer? Considering the fact that he proposes to one woman while he's still going at it with another on the side, I'd have to disagree on this one as well. There was absolutely nothing I liked about Mitchell's character and that was extremely disappointing for me. I stopped rooting for him about a third of the way through the novel, knowing he was on a downward spiral. But here's the thing: He finds out he didn't commit the crime that sent him to prison in the first place, and yet he still continues to live like some sadistic criminal. I just didn't get it.

The second issue I had with this book was the overall storyline and ending. Some critics have said that it's a stolen plot from Sunset Boulevard, but I don't know that story very well, so I can't agree or disagree. Just an FYI, the story stops abruptly. There are loose threads dangling there at the end, but heck if I know if they ever get resolved! The storyline is thin, with not much more than pointless crimes taking place. I guess that's where the struggle with understanding Mitchell's character came into play. He is always looking for trouble and that is what develops as the storyline. Not the kind of path I would take with my writing, but hey, I don't write crime either.

To put it bluntly, I don't think Ken Bruen is "one of the great crime writers of our time" as the front flap proclaims. At best, this is a half-baked story that just stops when it could probably be getting better. I've read better and I'm sure you have too. This book's a no-brainer to read and is quick to get through. The only upside to that is that I still had to finish my other novel for this week's reviews and so I had plenty of time after finishing London Boulevard.

On a final note, some musers on Amazon believe that Bruen only wrote this so it would be turned into a film. That wouldn't surprise me, considering the fact that it came out a couple of years ago on the big screen.

Um...just so you know, if Mitchell
didn't want to be a criminal, then
maybe he shouldn't knowingly
do half the stupid things he does.

Make sure to check out the other reviews in the Cephalopod Coffeehouse this month:


  1. Wow, if he stole the plotline from Sunset Blvd you'd think he'd have tried to disguise it better! I'm sorry you got such a disappointing freebie, but that often seems to be the way of things with freebies. Sadly. I'm excited to go read your other review, though. I loved that book. (I'm going to guess ahead of time that you didn't ... we shall see!)

    1. Funny, but I reviewed two books this week that "stole" other plots. One did it really well, the other (this one), not so much.

      Yeah, sometimes freebies suck.

  2. Probably won't be reading that one, then! Great review, though!

  3. 'and now I'm wondering why there weren't really any good guys...'

    You know what I'm thinking, don't you M&M!?!

    1. I'm not sure...Does it have anything to do with Footloose and that song "I Need a Hero"?

      Um...maybe not...

  4. Well, at least you didn't pay for it, right? Nothing like a bad book to get my day started completely wrong. Good thing I know to avoid this one in the future!

  5. Well, it's not uncommon to find these kinds of characters in action/crime novels. Generally, they focus more on plot than character. Just look at some of the action films out there; the protagonists are not very complex. Having said this, I've read crime/suspense novels with very intriguing characters, like the work of Carlos Ruiz Zafon or Cornell Woolrich.

    This premise reminded me of The Bourne Identity, which had an interesting hook, but in the end turned into a car chase/shooting extravaganza.

    1. That's true what you say about characters in these types of books. I've never read any of the Bourne novels, but I have seen the films. The one thing that draws me into Bourne's character is that he has this past he can't remember and you really want him to. And you almost feel like he's been done wrong because of the potential brainwashing going on in the program. But then he turns around and tries to lead a life under the radar and you're really hoping things turn in his favor. Except in the beginning, I never felt that for the MC of Mitchell.

  6. Sorry the book didn't do it for you but your review is highly entertaining anyway!

  7. Maybe Bruen wrote this for the big screen to pick up, but those opening words caught my attention. I think I'd enjoy reading it. Well reviewed, as always. Nice that your writing group hands out books. Hmm. :D

    1. If you like it, that's great! Not every book is for everyone, but we all have to be our own judge of what we like or don't like. Yeah, isn't that nice about my literary group?

  8. Good review for a book I'll pass on. What, it was already made into a movie, and I didn't hear of that either? huh.

    Crime novels reached their peak a couple of decades ago for me; now I just can't read most of them.

  9. When you decide to thrash an author at least get some of the facts right
    Stole......... What a loaded word
    If you had done just one tiny bit of reading you would see the book is written as a homage to Sunset Boulevard so when you say a writer has stolen, you need to be very careful in your wild accusations but your rush to smart ass thrash the novel says more about you than any stealing of a plot
    No good guys
    What are you, ten? It,s a Noir novel
    That you won,t be reading my work again is a blessed relief
    The less un informed bigots in my life the better
    Have a lovely literary day as your tone would hope to suggest
    Whatever about sisterhood you know very little of balance
    I look forward to the next ill informed piece you pass as a review
    Ken bruen

    1. And if you had read this review carefully you would see that she's not saying you stole the plot:

      "Some critics have said that it's a stolen plot from Sunset Boulevard, but I don't know that story very well, so I can't agree or disagree."

    2. Ken are you really a published novelist? I may just be a simple soldier but your grammar and punctuation are atrocious. No wonder Mary Mary didn't like your book! If it's anything like your well thought out and organized post I wouldn't recommend that anybody read it.

      A little thicker skin and grace "under fire" would go a long way in building your professional credibility.

      Major H

    3. Um, are you serious? If this is the real Ken Bruen and you have nothing better to do with your time than troll the Internet and insult anyone who doesn't like you're book, you are a sad sad man. It is only out of respect for the kind and thoughtful women who maintain this blog that I keep my more colorful words to myself. But as long as I have the floor...

      You accuse your critics of childishness and yet you take what could have been an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and instead burn a bridge with someone who actually went to the trouble of reading your stupid book. You're a bully and a sham.

      Don't dump on my friends again.

    4. Squid, let's give Ken some leeway. The fact that "stolen" was mentioned at all was not exactly handled so well. Why even mention it if you can't confirm based on personal experience? It's giving the idea credit just by referencing it. That's the best way to bolster a popular belief, regardless of whether or not it's true.

      Truth be told, I'd love to read more blogging from Ken, even if his comments aren't perfectly edited. But then, I don't mind similar TV personalities like Simon Cowell and Gordon Ramsey...

    5. (Grumble, grumble, grumble...)

      Your point is well taken, Tony. I still object to the tone of the response. There's no reason we can't all be adults here.

  10. I saw the movie version and thought it was okay. I think they worked on the main character's, um, character a little, because I didn't hate him. In fact, I was thinking he was better than the other characters. But it does happen sometimes that the movie version is better than the book.

    1. The thing with the movies, that tends to happen. I think it's because the audience finally has a visual idea of who the MC is supposed to be. Books take a lot of imagination!

  11. Murder/mysteries are so hard for me to get interested in anyway. Too bad cuz i know I'm missing out on a lot of good books. Not this one apparently, LOL.
    Thx for the review. I love reading other folks perspective on genres.

  12. Doesn't sound like my kind of crime novel. I like it when there is at least one redeeming quality in the "bad guy" character.

  13. Love love love the movie. Didn't know or perhaps simply remember that it was also a book.


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