If it bleeds, it leads. That's the old adage that the press live by and the death of one old-time London gangster Charlie Hook, a former associate of the Krays, gives Laurie Lane's struggling crime reporter a brief reprieve from being consigned to the motoring supplement section of the newspaper, or worse, redundancy and an investigation into irregularities in his expense account.
Crime reporting clearly isn't what it used to be, and neither is crime, come to that, reflects Laurie Lane throughout this very entertaining novel. In fact, everything seems rather more complicated to Duncan Campbell's aging old-school journalist (Campbell himself a long-time correspondent for the Guardian), facing up to the lack of perks in a workplace now dominated by instant news feeds, on-line blogs, free newspapers, laptops and Blackberrys. And it's not just the workplace that isn't what it once was, but Laurie also adjust to a new lifestyle now that his marriage is in trouble, his daughter isn't taking her A-level studies seriously and his team is struggling to regain supremacy in the local pub-quiz.
There are some perks however of a sort, the investigation into the killing of the London gangster taking Laurie over to Thailand on the trail of a Russian mafia boss, and he seems to be getting a lot of attention from attractive, younger women now that he is single again. In this context, the suspense of the investigation comes secondary to the entertainment comes from the characterisation of Laurie, his friends and colleagues, from the pub quizzes and the office politics, from the musings on the origins of expressions and Laurie's conscience-tugging battles with his Internal Prosecution Counsel that berates him simultaneously for not acting his age and for being an old-fart. It's this conflict and the resigned tone that Laurie adopts in the face of this just-can't-win situation that above all makes If It Bleeds a great read.