Thursday, 23 May 2013

THE DEAD by Howard Linskey - a review


Having read Howard Linskey's THE DAMAGE - review here, I was more than excited to have the opportunity of reviewing the follow up - THE DEAD

The Blurb
David Blake is back in Newcastle, running three cities, top boy. Life is sweet until his bent accountant is arrested for murder. The money man is nailed on for a life sentence until he puts five million pounds out of Blake's reach. Now Blake faces an agonising choice; fix the acquittal of a child killer or run out of the cash he needs to bankroll his empire. Meanwhile Serbian gangsters are slowly taking over his territory and a crazed Russian Oligarch wants to use Blake's drug supply line for his own ends. Back at home, the Police are closing in, determined to take David Blake off the streets of Newcastle forever, and Blake's girl Sarah is asking awkward questions about the death of her father that he really doesn't want to answer. As he fights for his life, David Blake slowly uncovers a shocking truth about his own past, turning over stones until he finally reveals a secret known only to The Dead.

The First Paragraph
'The dead are left with nothing, except the power to destroy the lives of those they leave behind. The girl's body lay on dry land, her head lying over the edge of the river bank. She was face up, her eyes open and her long, dark hair dipped into the water. The steady, regular movement of the current made the strands sway gently like tendrils. Her left arm trailed behind her, the fingertips of one white, slender hand suspended there, as if she were about to dip it into the cool water. Her appearance gave the illusion there might still be life left in her, but DS Fraser knew better.'

The Review  
THE DAMAGE is the third book in the David Blake series, featuring Tyneside's numero uno gangster, David Blake. Having returned to Newcastle to take control of his empire, Blake's days are spent taking care of business, unencumbered by the law, and doting on his wife and his daughter. 

But when the startling identity of the dead girl lying on the river bank is confirmed, it looks like David Blake's comfortable existence will come crashing down around him. It's going to take all his nouse to keep his head above water on this one. It's the dead, see. They might not be able to talk, but they whisper - they whisper into the ears of the bereaved and they create images of desperate suffering, and they cry out for resolution. But it's not only the recently deceased Blake has to contend with. Blake's whole life has been filled with the dead and the dying and the missing. And when you've had a life like that, it's bound to catch up with you some time.

As in the previous two books in the serious, Linskey's prose crackles and burns and pops off the page. Blake is brilliantly written, as are his cohorts - Kinane and Palmer. There are sub-plots and side characters galore - deviant accountants, old time gangster associates, gun-wielding Serbians, and even a nutty Russian billionaire straight out of a Bond film. Indeed, the sub-plots are so strong each almost deserves a novel all to itself. THE DAMAGE stands defiantly in the gangster/crime genre with its gang turf and tangled webs of violent retribution, but something deeper lies beneath. There is a moral compass to David Blake, a notion that he was not born to do this work. And that's not a good thing for a man where one sign of vulnerability could spell the end of it all.

Blake might have a chance to deal with the dead of present - after all, that's his business - but it's the dead of the past, the ghosts that haunt his every waking moment that could be his undoing.  

THE DAMAGE proves Linskey to be at the forefront of British crime writing. The quote from The Times on the front of the book reads: 'A Tyneside Dashiell Hammett to put Martina Cole firmly in her place'. Not sure I agree with the Dashiell Hammett bit - more Ed McBain. And as for the Martina Cole reference, Howard Linskey is in a whole different league.

Although the third in the series, the book can easily be read as a standalone novel. THE DAMAGE is available from Amazon UK here and Amazon US here

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