Written by Rod Humphris — Port Antonio, Jamaica, is where ex-soldier Simon Ellice finds himself in this new noir-ish adventure by Rod Humphris. As the smell of marijuana drifts across a still bay and a murder plot unfolds, this 92-page novella gives readers the chance to dip into the author’s work and sample his unique style.
Not worrying with any background or build-up, Humphris focuses on telling his story economically and mainly through well-crafted dialogue. Ellice – a man who seeks out trouble – is about to find it as he takes a midnight stroll down a coastal road away from the lights of the town. A couple of yardies see their opportunity and follow him out into the night, but just as they’re about to turn him into machete mincemeat, a cab pulls up. Inside is a movie star known only by the name Lara. She saves Ellice, but then they have a curious conversation in which she whimsically asks him to save her.
From what, we’re not quite certain. She speaks like she’s in an innocent 1950s movie, needing something from Ellice that he’s not sure he’s got, but for an evening at least he’ll bask in her glow as they hop from one bar to the next and end up at a table with her entourage, which includes Lara’s husband Hal and her agents. Ellice plays along with their full-on Hollywood fakery, buying drinks, listening, watching and learning that Lara’s career is heading onto the rocks.
With his combat experience, Ellice has one or two skills that Lara will need as the story plays out. Like the star, and her set, Ellice is staying on a yacht in the bay, and across the black water underneath the stars he senses danger. Ellice will need the right combination of intuition, guile and violence to thwart it.
Although the story is fairly contemporary, Humphris takes an old-fashioned approach to noir which feels a little black and white. Ellice himself is an enigma, who fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher are likely to enjoy. As the narrator of the story, what he doesn’t tell you isn’t worth knowing.
Nicely composed and with touches of dark poetry, Starlight benefits from wonderful production values. The cover, binding, printing and illustrations all speak of quality, and if you want more you can try Go Fast, the full length Simon Ellice novel by Rod Humphris. Bloodstock, next in the series, is due in November.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars