What I gleaned about the stories: When a gumshoe hangs out his shingle over the mean streets of London, he’s likely to find himself involved with dames and dark alleys; sometimes both.
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Analysis: Half way through the first paragraph I hit the sentence “I didn’t add up”. I might have slipped past without losing momentum, but the previous sentence started with “I had…” so the repetition made it stand out just enough for my mind to start pondering if it was intentional.
The protagonist was talking in a decent gumshoe noir style about having an issue with the tax man and having three ex-wives, so was it a typo, or was it a dry joke about his entire life being out of balance? Whichever it was, I wasn’t certain what the sentence meant, so smacked this story over the head and moved on.
Analysis: While the Sam-Spade-esque language was flowing, my mind stuttered on a few odd renderings of dialect: the most noticeable being “gonner” rather than “gonna” for “going to”; the overall ‘down these mean streets a man must smoke broodingly’ vibe pulled me on though.
Until I hit “I will pay you double” tucked in among the “I’ll this” and “I’ll that”‘s. After the build-up of a grammar noir, suddenly having a character stop using contractions threw me out. I wondered if I had confused which character was speaking. I wondered if I had misjudged the character’s personality. I wondered if I had misinterpreted the previous slightly unusual renderings of speech.
This time, I was fairly certain it wasn’t a deliberate statement, but my momentum was gone.
Analysis: The protagonist is trying to bribe a receptionist, so “peeled off a ten”. The receptionist carries on with what they were doing so the protagonist “peeled off a twenty this time”.
Peeled implies taking from the outside of a roll of notes, so I wasn’t certain how this worked. Did the protagonist have his money in random order, so he happened to have a ten then a twenty? Did he have them at opposite ends of the stack when he rolled it up, in which case wouldn’t he have had to move fives out of the way?
There are answers, and I might have picked one and moved on. However, with that initial uncertainty from the first paragraph still in the back of my mind, I was primed to de-construct rather than assume. As the different answers implied different things about the protagonist: was he tidy enough to have a roll of money, but not to sort it by denomination? Or was he grimy on the outside, but successful enough to not have fives in his roll?
Potentially, it was just an echoing verb that made it through to the final draft, but the context made it seem both significant enough and unclear enough to leave me with two conflicting images of a physical event.
So, I smacked the collection over the head and left it in a virtual alley.
However, these style niggles aside, the relocation of 50’s detective tropes to London has stayed so hard boiled it will definitely shrug the lump off and turn up in my casual reading list.