Written by Michael J Malone — Some crime thrillers pull you in immediately and carry you along like a tidal wave; others leave you paddling at the water’s edge, waiting for the surge that never comes. Beyond the Rage fits firmly into the latter category.
Kenny O’Neill is a Glasgow criminal who is used to ducking and weaving as he battles his way to the top. He is personable enough, and has more than enough cash and clout to get others to do his dirty work. Yes, things are going well for Kenny.
On his 30th birthday, things begin to unravel – with a vengeance. Eighteen years ago, Kenny’s mother committed suicide, taking an overdose of tablets in the kitchen while her son slept upstairs. Then his father did a runner and Kenny hasn’t seen or heard of him since. Until Kenny’s Auntie Vi, his mother’s sister and the woman who took him in after his abandonment, hands her nephew a bunch of unopened letters. They are from his father, who now has a new family and, although he wishes his son well, doesn’t want to see him.
Those words are as a red rag to a bull and Kenny sets the wheels in motion to find his missing father. The old man was a bit of an enforcer back in the day, and his son suspects that had something to do with his mother’s death.
So, there’s a story nicely rolling along but we have two plot lines here which for much of the book tend to run independent courses. So here’s scenario number two – Kenny is a regular customer of the delectable Alexis and has secretly fallen for her. So when the call girl is viciously attacked he leaps to the rescue and sets about finding who did the dastardly deed. Busy man, our Kenny. The loveable rogue line is so well worn to be almost a cliché, as is the tough-guy-and-the-prostitute angle but I persevered, hoping for something fresh and unfamiliar.
The two stories converge and diverge as the book progresses – to such an extent that you begin to wish Kenny would buckle down and get on with… something. It is obvious that Malone has a skill for creating quirky characters – the prime examples here are the utterly nasty hitman-on-a-mission Mason Budge and my own personal favourite, Kenny’s IT whizz employee Dmitri, who has some novel ways of answering the phone to his boss.
Michael J Malone has written two previous crime novels featuring DI Ray McBain, and the character (who is a pal of Kenny’s) makes a few cameo appearances here. Overall, I found Beyond the Rage a frustrating read, to the point where I was actually talking back to the pages – particularly after Kenny breaks his arm and he seems to turn into some kind of Scottish superhero, managing to do things that would seem impossible with his injury, such as carrying his girlfriend to bed. The final denouement is dark and brutal but I still felt a little cheated.
CFL Rating: 2 Stars