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by Jake Arnott
Soho Press, October 2004
348 pages
ISBN: 1569473730

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jake Arnott appears to have cornered the market in crime novels that aren't exactly crime novels. They're more a slice of social history set amidst gangland London from 30 or so years ago up to the present day.

TRUECRIME is no exception -- and it's a link with Arnott's outstanding THE LONG FIRM, turned into a successful drama by the BBC earlier this year. Harry Starks, hero of the latter, is very much a menacing background presence in the new book.

Arnott's over-riding strength is the crystal-clear voices he gives his characters, as well as his ability to blur fact and fiction. Real-life people lurk around in the shadows, and those that appear fictional present the reader with the challenge of trying to work out who they're based on. I like to think I know who he had in mind when he created iconic actress Ruby Ryder who was once married to a gangster, and would-be scriptwriter Jez, whose 'cor blimey' way of speaking attempts to cover up his wealthy background.

TRUECRIME is like a series of fast trains on several parallel tracks. Just as you start to despair of them ever melding, a flick of the points brings them all onto the same set of rails. It's a mix of stories and voices -- Julie the up-and-coming actress with a past she'd like to hide. Gaz, the thug whose life is falling apart. Gangster Eddie, recently released from prison and with a few scores to settle. Tony the journalist with secrets of his own and a beady eye on the story of a career. At stake are the settling of old scores and the hunt for some missing dosh.

Arnott comes highly recommended, but a non-British audience might have to work a bit harder with TRUECRIME. The book is peppered with UK slang and UK history. But if you're willing to do some research, the raw authenticity of this book will grab you by the throat.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, October 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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