Written by Keith Nixon — Our site is blessed with a number of enthusiastic and knowledgeable contributors ready to bring you the latest news and reviews, covering every subgenre of crime fiction from cosy to hardboiled. It’s no surprise when one of our fold break ranks to become a published author. Past contributors like Eva Dolan, Luca Veste, Andrew Nette and R Thomas Brown are on their way to becoming part of the crime fiction establishment.
Keith Nixon, another of our contributors, has also broken onto the scene over the past few years. His 2013 novel The Fix kicked things off for his Russian exile Konstantin, whose story continued in Russian Roulette. Keith has continued his writing endeavours, which include some historical crime, whilst still providing us with reviews, interviews, and articles for the site.
I’m Dead Again once more features Konstantin, the ex-KGB operative turned tramp, and his mysterious handler Mr Lamb, the kind of fearsome operator who knows how to say a lot by saying very little. However the book’s main protagonist is David Brodie, a down-on-his-luck investigative journalist based in Margate, Kent. He’s so miserable when we first meet him that even his motoring habits look like a passive form of suicide. At every set of traffic lights he rolls the dice, driving through reds as if they were green, hoping to be catapulted into the next life.
The reason for his downfall is local businessman Gordon Dredge. Back when Brodie had a family and a career that was actually going somewhere, he took a crack at Dredge and nearly exposed his criminal connections and questionable business practices. Dredge found out about his investigation and used his influence to destroy Brodie’s reputation. With no job, Brodie soon lost his wife and ended up a financial and emotional wreck.
He regains a sense of purpose when he’s encouraged to take another look at Dredge. There are rumours that this kingpin’s luck has finally run out. The dodgy deals and profiteering have finally caught up with him, and any day now he will be declared bankrupt. He’s even being shepherded around the clock by goons working for Steven ‘The Steroid’ Oakhill, suggesting it’s not just creditors that Dredge is avoiding. Such a man is no longer in a position to threaten Brodie and besides, how do you hurt a man who has lost everything?
At the same time Konstantin and Lamb are looking into the suicide of James Hollowman, who just happened to be the lawyer left holding the baby after the most recent crash and burn of one of Dredge’s companies. His death is rather convenient for everyone involved and bears the hallmarks of Oakhill’s style of punishment. Over the course of seven days, Brodie tries to get the story which finally brings Dredge down without getting himself killed in the process.
Nixon displays all the strengths that made Russian Roulette such a favourite and indeed, he has actually built upon them. Chief amongst them is character. Brodie is entirely believable as a man at rock bottom and his situation is mined for all its inherent tragi-comic value. He is a protagonist that is so easy to root for. More surprising (and pleasing) is Dredge, not at all a cardboard caricature, but in Nixon’s hands a fully developed human being. Selfish certainly, but also burdened with regret. More peripheral characters are perhaps less fully drawn, but that is understandable, perhaps even necessary, for a fast moving tale like this.
Nixon may have concentrated on character but he hasn’t skimped on plot. It’s a fiendishly complicated affair, deliciously so, bringing ‘roid-crazed gangsters, Chechen interlopers, bent coppers and supergrasses in and out of the story. There is even time for Brodie to begin a tender romance.
There are hints that Konstantin is writing his memoirs, finally revealing his KGB past and the mysterious reasons behind his defection. Reading them would be a blast.\
I’m Dead Again is released 11 May. Read more about Russian Roulette here.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars