Monday, February 7, 2011
Beast of Burden by Ray Banks
Ray Banks is some kinda guy. I'd never read any of his books before, so it comes as a real pleasure to walk the fine line he's drawn between flat-out farce and literature. Living on "the wrong side of town" doesn't come close to covering living by one's wits among the criminal class in Manchester, England. The police investigator, Donkin, is hapless: mentally out-manned by the criminals he seeks and by his colleagues, he resorts to lashing out in frustration at anyone within reach. He strives to reform, to control his fear and anger, and only succeeds in bottling it up to explode in rage again when events outstrip his understanding. It's when he sits outside a stakeout and reminds himself "got to be smart about this" that our hearts become engaged.
This is the fourth book in the Cal Innes series, and lots of history has passed between Donkin and Innes before now. Each man has been bloodied--damaged, if you will--by contact with the other, and yet they will have just one more dance. How does one make a petty criminal and a corrupt policeman, both of whom are always looking for the main chance, into characters whose motivations we recognize and, if not respect, at least acknowledge to be true, even worthy? The language is crusty, the neighborhoods rough, and the people distrusting. And it is a real breath of fresh air. Kudos, Banks.