A couple of months ago I read a fabulous short by Gerard Brennan called Nothing But Time, set in HMP Maghaberry, it's the story of a marked man waiting for the inevitable shiv to the ribs. There're no laughs, no comfort, just Brennan telling you how it is in a voice as cold and hard as concrete.
His new novella, The Point, is a different beast entirely.
This is a breakneck rush of a book - a page-turner in a non-schlocky way - full of humour and unexpected warmth.
Paul Morgan is your classic silver-tongued bastard; all mouth and trousers as my nan used to say, a career criminal dead set on drawing his brother Brian down with him. The plot is simple, what happens when you piss of an insane drug dealer? You run. Grab your wee bro and take off to some quiet backwater where you'll lay low until it blows over.
Paul Morgan won't lay low though, he can't. While he's inveigling his way into Warrenpoint's seething underbelly brother Brian is falling in love with one of the most kick-ass femme fatales you'll have seen in awhile.
Rachel Malone is a fantastic creation and a credit to Brennan's skills. Strong, gobby and prone to acts of extreme violence, she's the kind of girl we can all look up to.
With characters like this on the page Brennan can't go wrong. The story rips along, there're guns and cleavers and some poor guy gets strapped to chair so bad things can be done to him, all the usual ingredients for a cracking crime novel. The writing is evocative, full of nifty touches and sharp observation, and the dialogue is right on the money. It also has a cute retro-pulp front cover, if that sort of thing interests you.
The Point has cemented Brennan's must-watch status for me. It might be slim but this novella, with its Bateman-esque humour and solid writing, promises great things in the future.