I like a bit of hard-boiled crime writing as much as the next reader, so I was looking forward to this: I’d read lots of glowing feedback about this and its predecessor by Reynolds. But I left it a bit underwhelmed and wondering quite what the fuss is about.
Reynolds can write – and the novel zips along merrily enough, with journalist Charlie Yates drawn into a murder-mystery via a journalist colleague and some ties to what happened in the first novel, The Dark Inside. Pulling at the initial thread leads Yates to the town of Hot Springs, and a woven web of 1940s ish American small town corruption. And the whole thing has a nice noir-ish feel, and (at least) to a British reader, feels quite well drawn and evoked.
But the style reads like a sort of Raymond Chandler-pastiche at times, with its laconic, short-lines and clipped prose. This starts off OK, but lapses into cliché a fair bit for me, and also lends itself to everything being explained all the time: there’s no room for your own thoughts or interpretation here. And by mid-way through, it was starting to get in the way of enjoying the story. Here’s a bit I highlighted: “he looked like a blue collar Joe, with smarts enough to go toe-to-toe in a courtroom or a bar room without looking out of place in either”. Every man he meets that he doesn’t know looks like the “sort of man you wouldn’t want to know”. And so on.
The other issue was the plot, which primarily involves Yates going to speak to someone in the town (a barman, a prostitute, a policeman, a journalist) who then tells them about someone else who he then goes to speak to. Occasionally the person he’s going to speak to turns out to be in the middle of something bad, so he has to hide or keep his head down. And then he goes back to asking people. I know he’s a journalist, but it makes for a very formulaic unveiling of the different plot strands and key characters. Although the tension and action ratcheted up, it couldn’t overcome these flaws.
Maybe the first book is better (I might give it a go – only a couple of quid on Kindle), but this one overpromised and underdelivered.
BUY THIS BOOK! Black Night Falling (A Charlie Yates mystery)