CALIBRE - Ken Bruen
When your favourite authors start dying even the most reasonable reader should be forgiven for becoming a nervous, obsessed, idiot hoarder of books that can, after all, be re-read should the unthinkable eventuate. Despite an overwhelming desire to continue this hoarding behaviour, eventually the yearning for books like CALIBRE becomes too strong and, as a result, I'm no longer hoarding CALIBRE. (DISCLAIMER: I have no information whatsoever with regard to Mr Bruen's state of health... it's just that he's a favourite author and there's always the chance that any one of my favourite authors could beat me out the door....)
I'm not 100% sure what called me to this book over the last few days, but I found myself inexplicably incapable of looking past it when scanning the shelves for a little something to fill in a hot weekend. Which plan failed dismally as I read it in a single setting. Not because the book is 192 pages long, because it was so extremely, gloriously readable.
Of course we're talking Bruen here, so it's rapid-fire dialogue, recited by unconventional characters, with a healthy disdain for the rules or much in the way of propriety. There's also the most marvellous dark, dry humour - personally I thought Sergeant Brant's method for becoming the British equivalent of author Ed McBain had a weird sort of merit, although I doubt his colleague, who was being set up for a systematic fleecing of his ability, would agree....
CALIBRE, as with all of Bruen's novels, is not for everyone. We're not talking straight-forward police procedurals here, nor are we necessarily talking much in the way of complicated plots. What we are talking is a sense of noir, of the dark side, of black humour and somehow, disconcertingly so in some places, realism. Favourite author or not favourite author I'm going to have to snap out of hoard mode and get back into reading (and re-reading) all of Bruen's books.
Somewhere in the teeming heart of London is a man on a lethal mission. His cause: a long-overdue lesson on the importance of manners. When a man gives a public tongue-lashing to a misbehaving child, or a parking lot attendant is rude to a series of customers, the "Manners Killer" makes sure that the next thing either sees is the beginning of his own grisly end.
When he starts mailing letters to the Southeast London police squad, he'll soon find out just how bad a man's manners can get. The Southeast is dominated by the perpetual sneer of one Inspector Brant, and while he might or might not agree with the killer's cause and can even forgive his tactics to some degree, Brant is just ornery enough to employ his trademark brand of amoral, borderline-criminal policing to the hunt for the Manners Killer.
For if there's one thing that drives the incomparable inspector, it's the unshakeable conviction that if anyone is going to be getting away with murder on his patch, it'll be Brant himself, thank you very much.