Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blonde on a Stick by Conrad Williams

Blonde on a Stick by Conrad Williams. MaxCrime £6.99
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn

Out now is Conrad Williams' foray into crime with Blonde on a Stick. The publishers say of Williams' dialogue: "it's razor sharp [and] peppered with the poetry of everyday profanity." That's something to live up to; fortunately for Williams (British Fantasy Society member and a writer more associated with horror fiction), he does a pretty good job.

The book begins with a prologue, in which the 'Four-Year-Old' arrives in London from Liverpool. He's a killer on a mission; and no sooner does he reach Euston he meets Linda -- and the inevitable occurs. It's described discreetly with no gross out, a trap into which a lesser writer may fall.

Then chapter one starts with a different character, a different story. Joel Sorrell is a private investigator, an ex-cop -- with a past. His wife has been murdered; his daughter is long missing. He loses himself in his work. Fortunately, he seems to be a detective who is able to dump his emotional baggage at the left luggage for most of the time. Sorrell is hired to find the missing brother of Kara; but he's only been gone for hours, a day or so at most. Things are not, naturally, as they seem. She really isn't Kara Geenan. He's beaten up; someone tries to kill him (others are killed); he has problems with the police. And then reluctantly, he has to return to Liverpool, his old stomping ground, to follow up the leads.

Part one ends and the next one continues with the story of the 'Four-Year-Old'. And I think, oh bugger, I'd forgotten all about him. Here, the killer moves through London; but the now is intermingled with the story of his past. Somewhere down the line Sorrell and the killer are sure to meet.

Blonde on a Stick is a fast-moving crime-noir, played on the streets of London and Liverpool rather than LA. It has a wise-cracking detective in Sorrell who gets beaten up a lot, rather like the Jack Nicholson PI in Chinatown. Williams' novel is bound to attract a large audience from both the dark crime and horror camps, and is sure to be a hit.

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