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on 11 January 2005
This is the debut novel by Kernick, and one I picked up at the Bodies in the Bookshop in Cambridge event in July 2004. Given that a usually slothful reader like me managed to whip through it in less than a week is testament to the pace of the book.
Before the event, I hadn't heard of Kernick, but a brief bit of research beforehand made it clear that he was probably for me the most interesting bloke there. His novels (there are three currently published, including this one) are variously described as 'dark', 'savage' and 'rancidly rendered' - which makes perfect crime reading for me.
The Business of Dying, despite being pretty bleak at times, is nothing like as depressing as, say, David Peace or James Ellroy. There isn't the sense of total desolation that seems to accompany books by those gloomy writers, and indeed throughout the book, until perhaps the climactic closing chapters, a black humour is ever present. I'm never certain about so-called 'humorous' crime books, though here the laughs are on the periphery and largely stem from the fairly misanthropic hero. The writing is less stylised too, and perhaps more in line with the likes of Rankin and Booth. No fancy typographical tricks here, which makes for a pacy read.
The story, then. DS Dennis Milne is a pretty fed up detective with too many unsolved cases on his hands than he'd like. Oh, and he also earns a bit of cash on the side as a hit man for a dodgy local 'businessman'. The story begins with Milne capping three blokes in a hotel car park before rushing to the scene of another murder, this time of a teenage prostitute. As Milne digs deeper, his grip on both his police work and his grisly side line begins to loosen and by the last third of the book he loses control almost completely.
Kernick manages to control the plot superbly, the twists and turns are never obvious nor unlikely, and Milne is a likeable yet flawed anti-hero.
This is an excellent crime novel, particularly when you consider that it is his first. More crime fiction should be like this, where the lines between the good guys and the bad are blurred, and the ending is not really all that happy. With The Business of Dying, Kernick has proved that he should do well in the business of writing.
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The Business of Dying is extremely gritty and an excellent debut novel. The plot is seen through the eyes of another Kernick anti-hero, DS Milne, who is both an excellent cop and a cold blooded Hitman - a kind of Dirty Harry gone bad. Milne is such a good and committed cop that it takes a while to believe in his other life but by the end you are left in no doubt that this man is a blood thirsty killer not to be messed with, and still end up cheering him on.
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on 6 August 2002
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.
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I was lead to this by links and positive reviews on Amazon and I was pleased I made the effort.

An apparently experienced and dedicated CID officer acts as an occasional hit man for a local gangster. In this tale the repercussions of a 'hit' become more and more significant during the investigation of a murder. As the net closes in on our CID officer, he struggles with the need to make a run for it while wanting to identify the murderer.

This was a very enjoyable page-turner and the author managers to make you root for a man who is actually a bad guy. Very refreshing and entertaining throughout.
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One of the most appealing strengths of this debut novel by Simon Kernick is its sense of pace. It flows from page to page and chapter to chapter in such a natural, easy way that I almost felt as if he wrote it in one sitting. With many novels I sense when the writer has taken a break and returned to the keyboard days later, but with this one the tale is told so seamlessly and fluently that it begs to be read in one hit, too.

Hitting is very much what Detective Sergeant Dennis Milne's life is all about, or at least the dark side of it. In the opening sequence we are presented with the slightly confusing scenario of a decent London copper completing another contract killing for the benefit of an underworld associate. Discovering that the victims were not murderers sat uncomfortably with me throughout the tale, in such a way that I could never quite get it out of my mind. I have no doubt that this was the very intention of the writer, but the fact that it somewhat bizarrely played on my conscience (because in all other respects I was rooting for Milne all the way) did distort my sense of political correctness. Is Milne a bad good guy, a good bad guy, or what?

But the bottom line is that I buy books for entertainment, and, putting the highly questionable morality of the lead character to one side for a moment, The Business of Dying had me snarfing through the pages at speed with a reluctance to put down that I don't enjoy very often with my crime-fiction reading. There is also a refreshingly likeable mixture of casualness to the prose with pretty grim depictions of extreme violence, torture and murder. It almost touches on black humour, but in truth any smiles I felt were for the entertainment value rather than any truly comic wit; this is more Max Payne than Harlan Coben ' if Sony ever took an interest in this novel, they would be more likely to make a PS3 game out of it than a DVD.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2006
Having read the second Dennis Milne novel first, I was prepared to be disappointed by "The Business of Dying" but was far from it. It has none of the hallmarks of a typical first novel, isn't at all derivative, and the moral contradiction of the hero being a policeman who is also a professional hitman is well handled.

Add to that action bursting out of every page, and descriptions of a real London which I recognised and you have a recipe for enjoyment if you like your crime fiction gritty and bloody.
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on 9 July 2004
The book has pace, excellent characterisation and originality. It's the story of a London copper who has, unfortunately, crossed the line. Then his outside private practice involves a set up and we make the journey with him as his life simply unravels. He has definitely "not done good", but as the story unfolds you find yourself routing for him and then questioning whether you should be. He is a great character - very realistic and with realistic actions considering he is, in essence, a bad cop. Other walk on parts are also well drawn. There are quite a few characters but it is easy to differentiate them as Kernick characterises really well.
There are plot twists and this is the most realistic London based police procedural I have read. (Actually, you can remove "London based" from that sentence.)
A massively great debut with the promise of a great career ahead.
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on 23 June 2012
"The Business of Dying" is this author's first book so after enjoying his latest books immensely I knew I had to go back in time to search out the roots of this author's imagination.

Mr. Kernick's first novel is a mystery with a twist providing the reader with plenty of action and intrigue. The engaging protagonist, Dennis Milne, a full time cop and part time murderer, is always at the heart of it all. The storytelling flows smoothly and delivers a saga that engulfs your imagination till the last page.

The story is fast of the mark with the coldblooded execution of two customs agents and an accountant. This assignment is handed to Dennis by London's toughest members of society the underworld elite that expects results, with them failure is not an option. As a reader my attention was immediately seized by the captivating description of London's underbelly life, a world that is generally hidden from the public and a culture that thrives on fear and secrecy.

Dennis's day job as a London detective investigating the death of a young girl found by the side of a canal is on a direct collision course with his underworld assignment. Working both sides against the middle is a no win situation that puts Dennis in the very precarious position of being the hunter and hunted at the same time. The result is an edge of the seat drama that turns into Dennis's worse nightmare. He becomes a man on the run with no place to hide.

The author has combined an interesting first person narrative with emotionally complex characterisation. Dennis is portrayed as a person with a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The powerful prose, tight plotting, clever structure and the conundrum Dennis is faced with are the driving force behind this novel.

With Dennis on the run I can't wait to see what the author has in store next.
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on 10 September 2015
[bookcover:The Business of Dying|1450056]

What can I say, my friends know Simon Kernick is one of my favourite authors, members of my group " A Good Thriller", know I love his books, so how am I reading his first book?

Guilty, I have read number 3, first, yes first !

Now reading part 1 in the Dennis Milne books, have read most of Tina Boyd books.

But pleased to say loved this book and a great introduction to this great author, that I can recommend to all my friends, and I can tell you he gets stronger and better.

Very pleased to read this books as a Book pal and my pal also gave the book four stars like myself, so happy to recommend this book and author.

Dennis Milne is a cop, but a corrupt cop makes money on the side as a killer for the bad guys, but the question I asked myself and you, does this make him a bad guy?

He main case is a murder of a eighteen year old prostitute Miriam Fox, but there is so much more to this gripping, taut cop thriller.

With great story telling, strong characters, great twists and shocks at a fast pace, I just know why I always come back to this author, not many authors can keep up the pace as Simon Kernick does in his books.

Highly recommended, and a great way to start with this author, yes his first book !
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on 26 October 2011
I'm a big fan of Simon Kernick and have thoroughly enjoyed many of his books, but this one doesn't seem to be a typical Simon Kernick novel - it seems to lack the the pace of his others. I also found the end to be a bit predictable. However, it is still an enjoyable read and it contains a good leading character in Dennis Milne who is a corrupt cop and at times you don't know whether you are with him or against him. Worth picking up.
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