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by Ken Bruen
Justin, Charles, March 2003
399 pages
ISBN: 1932112022

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A serial killer hunting England's cricket team, a vigilante gang hanging drug dealers, an enforcer known as the Alien, and a police force intent on repairing their own reputations with a 'white arrest', an arrest so pure that it wipes out all previous transgressions. Welcome to the violent world of Ken Bruen, a world where the cops are often bigger villains than the crooks, a vicious side of London where corruption is rife, and integrity a soon corrected abnormality.

The White Trilogy revolves around the lives and careers of three officers, Chief Inspector Roberts, Detective Sergeant Brant, and WPC Falls. The two men are long serving policeman and determined to protect their careers any way they can. Falls is not only a woman, but also black, and the double-edged sword of racism and sexism is given a different slant by Bruen. It's worth reading through the trilogy just for the way that an episode of sexism is dealt with right at the end of the third book. Although Brant and Roberts are nominally the main characters, I found Falls by far the most interesting. Starting as an idealistic young officer, how Falls deals with the corruption represented by Brant in particular, and the choices that she has to make were for me the heart of these books. Characterisation isn't deep in the way that I normally think of it. Bruen doesn't waste any words and there's not much room for lengthy analysis, but the deft way that he sketches his characters leaves me feeling that I know them well, almost too well in the case of the most evil ones.

Bruen's style is unusual and original, a collage of words with short staccato episodes, lists, crime fiction quotes and references, and some poetry all combining to make a compelling whole. This is quite different from anything that I've read before in crime fiction, and inevitably there are some readers who dislike it, but I find it refreshing and enjoyable. Each short episode in these 3 books packs a little punch, sometimes below the belt, sometimes square on the funny bone. Bruen's humour is quite black and I often found myself laughing out loud while simultaneously thinking 'I shouldn't be laughing at that, that's terrible.' The White Trilogy falls just short of being a knockout, but all those little punches have a cumulative effect and it's definitely a winner on points. The downside is that these episodes tend to seem erratic, they jump around from character to character and give a fragmented feel. However, this didn't bother me as much in these books as it sometimes does.

The three books that make up this trilogy, A White Arrest, Taming The Alien, and The McDead, are all published separately, but they're quite short and this trilogy is the best value way to buy them. Bruen is an original, I can't think of a comparison that might tell you whether you'd enjoy these books, but I do recommend that you try one and find out.

This review is based on the Australian edition published in 2003 as A White Arrest.

Reviewed by Paul Richmond, July 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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