"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: