cover image Payback: A Novel of Suspense

Payback: A Novel of Suspense

Russell James. Foul Play Press, $19 (218pp) ISBN 978-0-88150-267-1

British writer James's ( Underground ) American debut crackles with action and with dialogue Hammett or Raymond Chandler might envy. Ex-boxer Floyd Carter returns to South London to bury his older brother Albie--supposedly a hit-and-run victim. But the youngest Carter brother, Ludo (who at the age of 30 has the intelligence of a 12-year-old), insists that the car ``chased'' Albie onto the pavement. Although Floyd has been in Germany for 10 years, he quickly learns that Albie owed a delivery of drugs or a lot of money to some very threatening bad guys. Floyd is drawn back into his past and onto the mean streets of Deptford to deal with warring druglords, hostile cops, a boyhood pal's drug addiction, an old girlfriend's rambunctious teenage daughter and his renewed interest in the girlfriend. How Floyd extricates himself and Ludo from danger is a fascinating, intricate story with a very satisfying ending. James's characters sprint off the page and his portrait of a tough London seldom seen by tourists is strikingly etched. That some criminals sound as though they spend their nights watching American gangster movies of the '40s seems appropriate for this story, which is hard-boiled in the grand, classic style. (Dec.)