Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review of Kiss Me Quick by Danny Miller (Robinson, 2011)

It’s 1964 and Vince Treadwell is law graduate who has taken the path of a copper. On the fast track to the top to the force he’s a Scotland Yard detective working central London. He also seems to be the only cop on the force who isn’t on the take. When he’s called to a murder in Soho he discovers more than he bargained for. Three weeks later he is emerges from a coma convinced that his soon to be retired boss was partially responsible for his hospital stay. To keep him out of the way until his boss leaves he’s packed off to Brighton, his home town, to take a look at case that has the paw-prints of Jack Regent, a legendary underworld boss, all over it. Regent has disappeared, but his rackets and gang haven’t, still with their fingers in every lucrative pie in the town, overseen by his trusted lieutenant, former professional wrestler, Henry Pierce. Working with the resentful Brighton police, Treadwell starts to investigate, only to find himself falling for Regent’s woman, the blond bombshell, Bobby LaVita, and to discover his own past in the form of his brother, Vaughan, catching up with him. It’s going to take all his skills and wits to bring Regent and his cronies to justice.

Kiss Me Quick is very much a story of an isolated, maverick, brilliant cop against his own corrupt bosses and the criminal underworld. Vincent Treadwell is an engaging lead character, with his movie star looks, sense of morality and reckless bravery. The other lead characters - Bobbie, Jack Regent, Henry Pierce, Vaughan - are all well penned, full of life and fleshed out with strong back stories. Although the book is very much rooted in the town, somewhat oddly I didn’t really get a feel for Brighton, its geography or sense of place beyond it being a seaside resort. What I did get was a vivid sense of time. Miller does a good job at recreating the early 1960s and the feel and vibe of the time. These are the two real strengths of the book: the characterization and the historical rootedness. The plot was interesting if a little cumbersome at times, but it was generally engaging, tense and rose to a crescendo. For the most part the storytelling was solid enough, but was a little over-elaborated in places for my taste. Overall an enjoyable read and I’d be interested in catching up with Detective Treadwell’s next case.

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