Written by Andy Rivers — Maxwell’s Silver Hammer sounds like an odd name for a crime book, but here we have an excellent gangster-style novel, revealing what it’s like at the heart of council estates in the North of England.
Billy Reeves has grown up on the tough streets of one of Newcastle’s council estates. A former boxer, he now runs a bakery with a sideline in illegal activity. The local gangster is looking for new blood to work for him, and has his eyes set on Billy. Unfortunately, Billy doesn’t see things the same way, and turns down his offer. Thus begins a battle to keep his world from crashing down around him, as he faces corrupt police officers, judges, local hard men, and his own failings. In a race to keep everything he holds dear to him safe, Billy has to fight to survive, as the game threatens to harm not just him but his family too.
Maxwell’s Silver Hammer, quite different to the rather forgettable Beatles song it shares its name with, is a further example of what British crime fiction is hiding beneath the surface. Termed ‘Brit Grit’ by someone a lot more clever than I am, here the seedy underbelly of council estates and the working class are presented in an accessible way to all crime readers.
Telling the story from multiple character viewpoints could be seen as a gamble. Having so many different voices might confuse the reader. However Rivers manages to give each character their own identity, easily switching between the different accounts without breaking the reader’s concentration. It’s a brave way of telling a story, yet he does succeed in drawing you into the world he creates, placing character above all else at times.
Taking place over less than two weeks, the relentless pace of the story is what drives this novel forward. With each strand of the story revealed to the reader, another replaces it, meaning there is a constant, breathlessly engaging plot to keep you turning the pages right until the explosive ending. A relentlessly realistic novel, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is well worth it for anyone wanting to read something a little more true to life. Andy Rivers has written an accomplished, funny, harsh, and excellent crime fiction novel. Highly recommended!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars