Any new book from R.J. Ellory is an event in these parts, and A DARK AND BROKEN HEART coming with the subtitle of "How Long Can A Man Escape Judgement?" was a particularly tantalising arrival.
Fans of Ellory will know that he writes flawed, complicated, considered stories often about consequences. He writes dark, and sad and desperate. He also writes glimpses of hope, humanity and future. Which makes his books amongst some of my all time favourites, and right up to and including the final sentence in A DARK AND BROKEN HEART this book is undoubtedly one of my favourites.
What is particularly interesting about this book is that it has, as the central character, a cop who is crooked. He makes very little apology for that, and for most of the book is completely obsessed with resolving the symptoms of a life gone horribly off the rails. Gambling, drug taking, working for the crooks, he's prepared to pull the "ultimate heist" to get his life back on track. And that's just the start of how far he's prepared to go to save his own skin.
I won't be at all surprised if some readers struggle a little with this book. Vincent Madigan is not an immediately likeable human being. His flaws, his driven disregard for everyone around him could make him appear completely ruthless, completely self-obsessed. He's manipulative, violent and very dangerous to know. Somewhere in the middle of all of that I could get a sense though that this was a very scared, imperfect human being, somebody who may not engender overt sympathy, but does have a conscience, does struggle with his decisions and the outcomes he now must deal with.
As is always the way with Ellory's books A DARK AND BROKEN HEART is no holds barred. Ellory is looking at themes that he often explores - what makes a person choose a certain path and what makes good people do bad things. The book does this concentrating almost totally on Madigan and his battle with his chosen path, with supporting appearances from a cast of characters that further explore that distinction between "good" and "bad" but more importantly why. Madigan and his associates - from both sides of the law - don't inhabit a happy place, and everyone who brushes up against them is affected by that contact. The story is fascinating, the writing tight yet descriptive, evocative yet sparse and very very pointed. And the ending is perfect.