Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review of Easy Streets by Bill James (2004, Countryman Press)

For years there’s been an understanding between Desmond Iles, a cop with a short temper and ambition, and Mansel Shale and Ralph Ember, two underworld bosses who run a substantial part of the city’s drug trade -- the police will turn a blind eye as long as they conduct their business in an orderly fashion.  However, a relaxation of the government’s attitude to drugs, plus a plentiful cheap supply, has meant the marketplace being flooded.  As profits plummet, various factions set about restructuring who the main players are, seeking alliances and bumping off rivals.  After a small time criminal’s house is firebombed, killing him and his young daughter, Iles and Harpur seek to restore order in their own unconventional way.

Easy Streets is the twenty first tale in the Harpur and Iles series.  It’s the first one I’ve read and I’m not sure it was the ideal introduction.  The start felt like joining an on-going conversation and it took a little time to work my way into the story.  In fact, the whole tale felt like an episode of a long running television show; more a snapshot into a much longer narrative than a fully-formed, self-contained story.  The tale is told from a handful of perspectives: that of the shady, seedy cops, Iles and Harpur, and the upwardly mobile criminals, Mansel Shale and Panicky Ralph Ember.  Where it excels is with respect to the dialogue in which characters can often be talking past one another as they ignore what the other has to say, and it is often darkly comic.  Overall, however, whilst interesting, it lacked a strong hook that would shift it from crime soap opera to something more substantial.

1 comment:

Ann Summerville said...

I stopped by your blog today.