Written by JD Carter — Those who enjoy a subtle crime mystery, an intricate plot and a collection of sympathetic characters should look away now. On the other hand, if you want a relentless, violent and visceral story peopled by deeply unpleasant members of the London gangster aristocracy, then stay tuned.
Clive Dicks was a mobster who had a flourishing criminal career, a beautiful and adoring wife, Sharon, and a bonny son, Alex. He also had a childhood friend, Bobby Makin. The problem was that Bobby was insanely jealous of everything that came so easily to Clive – his criminal acumen, his ability to avoid jail and, most corrosive of all, the gorgeous Sharon. Bobby puts a long term plan into action. He kills Clive, and convinces the authorities to pass the death off as heart failure. He bides his time, plays the part of dutiful best friend, but then courts Sharon, and marries her.
Bobby Makin has reached the grand age of fifty. To celebrate the Big Five-O, Sharon organises a birthday party, and invites a stellar cast of bank robbers and hoodlums. Among the ‘A-list’ criminal celebrities are Clive’s son and heir, Alex ‘Psycho’ Dicks and Charlie Boy, who still grieves over his brother, accidentally shot during a bungled bank raid. Now he is a caterer, and is hosting the evening’s festivities. Then there is Billy Boy Spencer, enforcer, bare knuckle fighter and film celebrity, with his petite wife Cheryl, late of a local massage parlour. Along with the Clay brothers (yes, seriously) we are introduced to local lovelies called Big and Little Tracy, and a succession of alluring WAGS.
As Bobby works the room with back-slapping and banter, he is shocked to see an unexpected guest who is about as welcome as Banquo’s ghost. Jimmy Mason and Clive Dicks were inseparable as kids. Brought up in Mile End, the pair scrapped, robbed and bled together. Until Jimmy fell foul of the embittered Bobby Makin who reversed his car over him until he was left for dead. Jimmy survived, much to Makin’s disgust, but remained a drooling cripple in a wheelchair, known, with eye-watering lack of sensitivity, as ‘Jimmy The Veg’. Unfortunately for Makin, Jimmy is not as helpless as he seems, and when he arrives at the party, he is prepared to unleash secrets which will have devastating consequences for all concerned.
When I began reading the book I put it down almost immediately. I then started again from the beginning, and persevered. With a fair amount of gritting of teeth I kept with it, and while it would be an exaggeration to say I became hooked, the story certainly began to exert a pull which drew me on to the grisly conclusion. I can’t judge whether the dialogue is authentic or not, but readers who enjoy the ‘Leave it aht, ‘Arry’ school of conversation will not be disappointed. The biggest flaw of this book is that the characters are so completely unlikeable that the reader does not develop a single shred of sympathy for any of them. Ultimately, then, because we don’t really care what happens to them, much of the tension generated by the tight story-telling is thrown away.
There was a refreshing lack of the typos and compositing errors often found in self-published books, and if the author was his own editor, then he has done a good job. The action unfolding during just a few hours of real time bestows a considerable advantage on the writer, and Mr Carter does not waste this, as the story has real pace and a natural rhythm. He doesn’t appear to make moral judgements about the vile cast of thugs and sociopaths who are guests at The Party, but whatever distorted moral code they observe, he at least makes sure that they observe it consistently.
CFL rating: 3 Stars