cover image Vixen


Ken Bruen. Minotaur Books, $14.99 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-312-32730-9

This new installment in Shamus-winner Bruen's Southeast London police squad thriller series-the little brother to the author's Jack Taylor mysteries-reunites the reader with the incorrigible Inspector Brant, Sergeant Doyle, Police Constable Falls and other old friends. This time Brant and cohorts must investigate a series of deadly extortion bombings masterminded by Angie James, aka ""the Vixen."" A female psychopath, James coldly manipulates men and women like human pawns to make her plan succeed. Bruen provides the usual grace notes, including quotes from other mystery novels, pithy dialogue and hyper-real violence. James as a malevolent force of nature adds needed energy to the narrative, while new characters like Falls's partner, Patricia Andrews, supply a few fresh faces on the police side. Brant's now trademark nefarious activities make for wickedly funny reading. The best scene in the novel might be when Brant leads Chief Inspector Roberts to a prostitutes' party and gets him drunk. However, overall, the novel seems curiously muted in effect compared to past efforts (Blitz, etc.). Bruen uncharacteristically slows his scenes with explanations, while the central mystery surrounding the Vixen is pedestrian.