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by Ken Bruen
Sitric Books, May 2004
160 pages
ISBN: 1903305128

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Accountant Mike Shaw, who describes himself as "The sort of baby they nearly forgot to deliver", leads a predictable, bland and safe life. He and his girlfriend Brenda have a routine on their regular night out --their usual pizza, sitting at their usual table, in the usual Pizza Hut.

Even when Mike makes a token attempt at breaking out of his rut by buying a pair of faded jeans instead of his usual dark jacket and slacks on his regular twice-yearly shopping trip, he can't restrain himself from asking the sneering salesman whether the jeans will hold a crease. Neat and tidy. That's Mike.

Until, that is, he meets the unpredictable and dangerous Laura in a pub. But Laura isn't half as dangerous as her father, Harold Benton. Despite his rather ridiculous habit of wearing safari suits and quoting Baudelaire at every opportunity, Harry's wealth and power make him both a useful friend and a formidable foe. And he's about as friendly as a snake.

Tempted by the heady mix of money and power, Mike gets sucked into Benton's life and his own life spirals into darkness, obsession, and paranoia. Mike isn't a particularly likeable character -- there's something unpleasant about him from the start. Strangely, as he becomes gradually more corrupt and immoral, I found him, if not exactly likeable, then definitely more sympathetic. As his nastier characteristics develop, he also becomes more honest.

This is one of Bruen's great strengths as a writer for me. He can make you care about his characters, even if you don't care for them. He takes readers so far inside his characters you can see their hearts pumping and their bile ducts spewing.

DISPATCHING BAUDELAIRE is also a very funny book -- and one which gets funnier as it gets darker. There are some great one-liners and Mike has a deliciously warped way of looking at the world. Starting on a new Ken Bruen is always a thrill. It's not always comfortable, and never predictable -- except that I know I'm always in for a really good read. Bruen takes noir, decides that it's looking a bit grey about the gills, and adds an extra layer of darkest black.

Reviewed by Donna Moore, March 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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