RARA-AVIS: British Noir--Russell James

From: Joy Matkowski ( jmatkowski1@comcast.net)
Date: 15 Aug 2002

I enjoyed the way _Slaughter Music_ whips the reader (or at least me) around. A scene ends, and I assume that I understand what happened and what will happen next. The opening of the next scene proves my assumption wrong. I suppose I've read too many books with reliable plot lines.
    The plot concerns the development of a neophyte London hitman employed by a second-generation Ukranian gangster who's just returned from the Old Country with a new young wife, a literature teacher steeped in Dickens. Her take on London is one of the book's delights; another is the fastidious detail-mindedness of the hitman, who can worry that even an all-black outfit doesn't match, because one of the garments has a green tone to it, another is dense and reflects nothing, and a third is bluish.
    Even peripheral characters are well-drawn and individual, although a praiseworthy one is hard to come up with (Cecille, I guess). The book has a lot of back history, descriptions of London, and internal monologue, yet it seems brisk. There's an unusual Scot in it. It's gory and bleak.
    The slaughter music is Baroque opera.

Joy, whose next new BritNoir author is Cath Staincliffe

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