Beast of Burden
Author Ray Banks
Release Date: August 11, 2011
In his short career as Manchester’s most indestructible private eye, Callum Innes has been run over by a car, beaten within an inch of his life, shot in the ear, left for dead on a desert roadside, and halfway blown up by a car bomb. Now, mourning the death of his addict brother, walking with a cane, and barely able to speak following a massive drug-related stroke, Cal is a wreck. Enter Manchester ganglord Morris Tiernan to make his life even worse. Tiernan’s ne’er-do-well son Mo has gone missing, and Cal Innes is the only person the distraught gangster trusts enough to conduct the search. There’s nobody Cal would like to find less, but you don’t say no to Uncle Morris. And it turns out that Innes is not the only one working the case — the corrupt and parasitic Detective Sergeant “Donkey” Donkin has a vested interest in the fate of the Tiernans, as well as a long-standing grudge against the intrepid private eye. In this fourth and final installment of the Cal Innes series, our hero gives up acting as a pawn in Manchester’s underworld disputes. He has his own burdens to bear and scores to settle — with the Tiernan family, with Sergeant Donkin, and with the darkness in his own past.
Review: If you're looking for a hard-boiled detective noir with roguish dialect, Beast of Burden by Ray Banks is a great choice. It's got chain-smoking, cuss-using offenders and questionable coppers tripping over each other in an effort to find out who killed a king pin's son. Some try harder than others, but all have their reasons for injecting themselves into the investigation. The characters are gritty, exposed and although they are tough guys, all are completely vulnerable at varying points in the story which gives this noir a real-life feeling that will appeal to the common man or woman. What I found most impressive about the story was Banks use of dialect. The authentic speech and dialogue were unabated and uncensored. Banks has crafted a perfect example of how speech is specific to area. Nothing is proper about it, but that is not to say the author doesn't know the difference. In fact, he is acutely aware and knows just how to utilize conversation to deepen characters, strengthen plot and intensity. By doing so, it makes for more than just a hard-boiled noir, expanding it into a literary critique of how dialogue expresses class, stereotypes, setting, economic gap and cultural structure. Thematically, questions loyalty, revenge, family and justice. Heavy on the language and violence, but little sexual content.
*ARC provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt courtesy of Amazon Vine
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