Brit noir is alive and well in this brutal but compelling foray into the netherworld of Newcastle, England. When tabloid reporter and former drug addict Steven Larkin, the protagonist Waites introduced in Candleland, returns to his home turf to cover a mob funeral, his unresolved sentiments about the past—his wife and son were killed by bullets meant for him—come to the fore. His initial apprehension about the gig escalates when he encounters Charlotte Birch, an old flame. Now married and a solicitor, Charlotte asks Larkin to check into the alleged suicide of her friend, Mary, but the simple investigation swiftly evolves into a deadly undertaking when Larkin discovers that Mary's death may be linked to the machinations of an underground drug ring. Waites comes on strong from page one with a journal entry asserting that if someone is reading it, the writer is already dead. On the following page, he describes a multipierced sadomasochist driving a spike into Larkin's hand. Strong language and tough situations like this keep the mood dark and Larkin in and out of the hospital, but those who are able to get past these graphic scenes will be thoroughly entertained by Waites's acerbic wit and flawed but imminently likeable protagonist. (May 15)
Forecast:A bleak, blurry cover won't stop browsers in their tracks, but praise from authors Andrew Vachss and Maxim Jakubowski may propel readers to take a chance on this pricey paperback. Although it is likely to be overlooked in larger chain stores, independent booksellers will find this a natural hand-sell for readers who like their mysteries dark and insightful.