Written by Howard Linskey — The sequel to the highly successful debut novel The Drop, The Damage brings David Blake back to Newcastle upon Tyne for more gangstery hijinks.
Introduced in The Drop, Blake seems to be an ordinary man thrust down a road usually only travelled by genuine hard men, with broken noses and police records. The sequel finds him as the top dog, the man everyone has to listen to, which led me to worry if it would live up to the first book.
Being the top of the food chain should mean he can sit back and relax as the money rolls in, but the path of gangsterdom is never a smooth one. Following events in The Drop, he now finds himself spending his time in the relative calm of Thailand. However, problems in his native Newcastle mean he has to go back and steady both ship and crew. With issues creating a new supply line in the illegal drugs trade from the shady character The Turk, and the possibility of going into business with newly crowned Glasgow crime lord Alan Gladwell, Blake has a lot to deal with.
However soon it becomes apparent his life is in danger, and alongside his two trusted lieutenants Palmer and Kinane, Blake has to discover where the attempts on his life originate. When your life is on the line, trust only goes so far, and when his brother is attacked things get even more personal for David Blake.
Despite my trepidation The Damage fulfils its promise in strange and unexpected ways. Whilst the first book was done in a grittier, northern crime noir style, The Damage feels a bit closer to a crime action thriller, albeit in a gritty setting. The story is gripping from the start, with events spiralling out of control quickly. With multiple threads to the plot, Linskey exceeds expectations by managing to always keep the central plot moving, making sure you’ll be turning the pages to the end.
David Blake remains just as interesting, with an added caveat this time around. He’s making difficult decisions and seems a lot stronger for it than in his first outing. Not your typical gangster, Blake seems more accessible than similar characters in other novels. His surrounding cast, including hard men Palmer and Kinane, never feel overdone or unreal. His relationship with his now partner Sarah has its difficult moments, and Blake’s obsession with the mysterious Simone is an interesting side plot also. However, characterisation takes somewhat of a back seat this time to the increased amount of action, giving the book a breathless pace in places.
This incredibly enjoyable read had me reading on to see how it would end. With so many threads to the story, Linskey shows his adeptness for storytelling once more, and leaves no stone unturned towards the end. Fast paced, well written, and with a dark sense of humour, The Damage is an excellent novel which sets Linskey up as someone to watch out for. With The Drop now optioned for TV, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of his world.
No Exit Press
CFL Rating: 5 Stars