Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reviews of Beast of Burden and Gun

Ray Banks’ latest novel, Beast of Burden (Polygon, 2009) concludes the story of ex-con and sort-of private investigator Callum Innes. At the end of his last outing, No More Heroes, Innes suffered a stroke while trying to prevent a bomb from going off in the middle of a race riot.
Beast of Burden finds Innes summoned by Manchester gangster Morris Tiernan who wants him to find his missing son Mo. It doesn’t take Innes long to find Mo, but he’s not alive, so, of course, Morris wants to know what happened, as does detective Donkey Donkin, who is convinced that Innes is involved.

While Innes does return to the alternating first person point-of-view that marked Saturday’s Child, switching back and forth between Innes and Donkin, it no longer seems as gimmicky as it did when Banks’ was a writer with only one other novel under his belt. Banks’ writing continues to improve, and each of his Innes novels has been better than the last.

Burden isn’t a traditional detective novel, though. There is a long, complicated back story involving Innes, the Tiernans, and Donkin. While Banks does a good job of explaining without letting it bog down the story, this book is best approached after reading the three other books in the series, or at least Saturday’s Child, the first Innes novel, which goes a long way toward explaining the situation Innes finds himself in at the beginning of Burden. In a novel more focused on relationships than on plot readers who don’t know the lay of the land are likely to get lost.

While Beast of Burden’s main disadvantage is it’s inaccessibility to new readers, Gun (Crime Express, 2008), is quite accessible, and a good place for readers who might be looking to sample Banks’ style to start. At fifteen thousand words, Gun is somewhere in between a short story and a novella. It’s simple, polished, and elegant. A young, would-be thug is sent across town by a drug dealer to pick up a handgun. It’s an uncomplicated setup, but Banks manages to wring drama, and even a little pathos out of it.

1 comment:

Paul D Brazill said...

I've only read 'NMH' and Beast Of Burden (oh and some of the short stories) and I enjoyed them all but 'Beast ' is fantastic.