This is top-drawer hard boiled Brit crime that knocks spots off Guy Ritchie et al. DS Milne is a tough, jaded, boozing copper straight from Raymond Chandler, with a sharp mind but flexible morals. Milne has a sideline - he's paid by lowlifes to kill other lowlifes, so when he has to investigate a triple murder he's just committed, and he finds the victims were two customs men and an accountant, he sets out to find answers. At the same time a girl of eighteen has been found cruelly murdered and Milne is drawn into the investigation, uncovering a depravity that even his fading conscience can't ignore. While that case offers some redemption, Milne's criminal paymasters start to put on the squeeze and his colleagues begin to piece together the evidence from his homicides. With time running out and his paranoia growing Milne has to work fast and tough, to unravel the conspiracy of the girl's killing, dodge the police investigation and get payback for being double-crossed.
This is what hard-edged crime fiction is all about. The London drawn by Simon Kernick is a totally believable moral wasteland, with the anti-hero Milne at the centre riddled with guilt and paranoia and with ever-fewer cards to play. This gripping novel is a rollercoaster through a place we glimpse in the headlines and crime statistics where violence, power and money all go hand-in-hand, and where you have to be cynical to stay sane. Moreover this story is rooted right here and right now by Kernick's sharp sense for good characters, grimy detail and real dialogue. The narrative is so taut and fast-moving you'll struggle to put this book down. Anyone who likes The Long Good Friday or Get Carter, Quentin Tarantino or Philip Marlowe will get a real kick from this, and I can't wait for Kernick's next.