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by Ken Bruen
St Martin's Minotaur, July 2006
182 pages
ISBN: 031234144X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you haven't read any Ken Bruen before, you might feel as if you're entering a parallel universe when you pick up CALIBRE.

Bruen's Jack Turner books are among the most compelling and challenging in the genre at the moment. I was a later convert to the South London series, but am now well and truly hooked. If you're looking for noir, black humour and just this side of off-the-wall, do step this way. Realism? Hmm, well, maybe not here, unless you're a real cynic.

Bruen's creations are the most bonkers and dangerous bunch of cops to walk the beat. Top of the pile is the terrifying hardman Sgt Brant, who has just returned from a stint Down Under, and is walking round in his Drizabone coat and affecting an Aussie accent that needs some more practice. Oh and he has visions of becoming a writer, having OD'd on Ed McBain and Joseph Wambaugh. The fact he can't write his way out of a paper bag is hardly going to stop Brant, though . . .

Among the usual suspects are Porter Nash, who is yearning for a boyfriend; WPC Wells who isn't exactly flavour of the month; PC McDonald who's in even more trouble than Wells is, and Inspector Roberts who's been lumbered with what looks like a simple pick-up job by his superior.

And somewhere in the background is the Manners Killer, who is bumping people off if he thinks their behaviour's not tickety-boo. But then he hasn't banked on having Brant on his tail, who's even more lethal than he is . . .

The book has plenty of nods, both overt and covert, to the big names in the crime fiction field. And in many ways it's a crazy, twisted take on McBain's 87th Precinct series. Bruen's characters are mad, bad and definitely dangerous to know. And the book is tinged with humour so dark you'll find yourself looking around guiltily to see if anyone's spotted you smiling.

If you're sick of bloated fare, come and read CALIBRE, which weighs in at a honed and elegant 182 pages. It's a slice of perfection.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, August 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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