Written by Paul D Brazill — Collected here are the five short stories Brazill has written about Luke Case, an English freelance journalist working across the continent. Case is an excellent noir creation. He’s a sex- and booze-hound, and a hack with a mysterious past trying to keep his head above water – not waving but drowning. He will do whatever work he can get, legal or otherwise. His ex-pat life is spent in and out of bars and clubs, mixing with businessmen, whores, alcoholics, gangsters, and moving from city to city and country to country as opportunity and circumstance demand.
In classic noir tradition, Case’s control of events is illusionary. Each new plot or scheme he hatches might appear to offer the chance of salvation, giving him the chance to get ahead of the game, but in fact his fate is always held in the hands of others.
The stories work as individual vignettes but also form a short novel, beginning and ending in Poland, with a backstory in the UK. Spain and France come into play as well.
Red Esperanto is the first story with Case getting involved with not one but two femmes fatales. After being played like a violin, and then worked over with knuckle dusters, he flees to sultry Madrid for Death in a Hot Afternoon. Case is in and out of bars with fellow journalist Nathan Jones, a washed up hack who’s an even bigger boozer than Cae and has a cocaine problem too. He’s now working for The Madrid Review, an artsy periodical owned by an entrepreneur called Pedro, who has his fingers in many pies. Pedro’s latest project is with an exotic chanteuse, Lena, who he is promoting now as a Europop star. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to discover not everything is as it seems.
There is further mischief in the remaining stories including ghost-writing the prison memoirs of a British gangster, scams involving Camden session musicians posing as World Music stars, and the possible murder of a bestselling thriller writer. Could Julian Stroud be based on Lee Child? It’s all set to a great sound-track. Music seems to be important to Brazill and he did a similar thing with his Roman Dalton – Werewolf PI collection. The writing is leavened with some laugh-out-loud humour. Other than its short duration – a Case of Noir can easily be read in a single setting – there isn’t much for crime fiction lovers to dislike about this book.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars