5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2008
I found Swansea Terminal almost by accident, after reading about it in the South Wales Evening Post, the local paper in Swansea. It follows Robin Llewelyn, a homeless, alcholic ex-private investigator, who is paid by Rebecca Blethyn, a mentally unhinged woman obsessed with people she has never met before, to follow her latest crush around for her. Robin doesn't really care about this, but takes the money anyway to fund his drinking. Unfortunately for him, he ends up falling foul of her brothers, Tomos and James, who are local small-time crooks involved in smuggling booze and a dodgy shipment of phones from across the Irish Sea. He finds himself mixed up in their schemes as a result, and well... the rest would give the entire thing away.
I'm not usually a fan of detective novels, but the book really captures the seamier side of Swansea quite well. His descriptions of certain areas of the town like the Grosevnor Casino in the high street and the surrounding area are especially accurate, I would say. The supporting characters add much to the story as well - Robin mixes with a lot of other lowlifes, such as Scotty, a heroin addict from Glasgow, who is the closest thing Robin has to a friend, but is really using him in the hopes of getting his fix, and they really help to add to the bleak atmosphere at the book.
At the same time, Robin manages to come across as sympathetic, and you surprisingly easy to sympathise with the homeless alcholic as he stumbles from one pub to another trying to sort out the mess he is in while also looking for the next drink. I found the book oddly moving, and his observations of how he could have turned his life around particularly poignant. It's also oddly uplifting in places, as despite the hopeless nature of his situation, you don't come away from the story feeling depressed, but rather smiling at the rather frank and witty nature of his observations about certain aspects of life (e.g. doctors and taxi drivers in particular).
I look forward to reading the next book from Robert Lewis, whether it be another Robin Llewelyn novel, or something else.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The term "noir" gets thrown around far too often in discussions of new crime writing, mainly because few critics (let alone copywriters or just regular folks) can agree about what the term means. However, one central noir theme is the flawed hero (or antihero) pursuing some kind of impossible dream (be it a dame, a score, or just a quiet life). In that sense, this second book from Welsh writer Lewis is distinctly noir, even though the word doesn't appear anywhere on the cover. Another thing you won't find anywhere on the cover is a mention that this is a sequel -- the second book to feature down and out alcoholic private eye Robin Llewellyn. It is preceded by "The Last Llanelli Train," which is mentioned on the back as "Lewis' first novel," without any reference to it being about the same character. This is only important insofar as I am a stickler for reading crime (or other genre) series in order, and thus it's irksome to learn after the fact that there is more to the backstory. Throughout this book there are allusions and hints throughout to some dire and desperate events in Bristol that ruined Llewellyn and drove him back home to Swansea, all of which are presumably detailed in the first book.
In any event, here we find Llewellyn as a barely functioning alcoholic, living in a flophouse, and scrounging for money to feed his unslakeable thirst. As someone without much interest in booze, I found the book rather slow to get going, as a windfall allows Llewellyn to engage in a meandering pub crawl which grows increasingly tedious (for both him and the reader), even as it provides commentary on the inevitable change the town has seen. This same windfall eventually puts him in a tight spot with some nasty people, and he is forced to do a little bit of work for a local gangster. This mostly involves being a watchman at a warehouse full of dodgy booze, and signing various customs documents placed before him. Of course, eventually Llewellyn works out what's going on and tries to turn the tables in a desperate gamble to rescue his life. However, as a protagonist, he's rather hard to get invested in. Since the reader isn't privy to the full backstory from The Last Llanelli Train, we can't really understand why Llewellyn has fallen so far or why we should care. Despite this, just as with the best noir literature and film, it's hard not to get caught up in Llewellyn's efforts to pull off a big one in the final twenty pages or so even as you secretly know it can only end badly.
On the whole, the crime element is pretty well done, and there are moments of dark humor here and there (my favorite line was "He swung the chain over his head like a rocker out hunting mods."). The writing is pretty sharp throughout, with the occasional overindulgence in philosophizing. The twin quotes that open the book, from The Pogues and Raymond Chandler, do a nice job of establishing the tone, however, unless you're particularly into fiction about alcoholics, that element tend to rather dominate the proceedings. A good read for those interested in Wales, alcoholics, or meandering crime fiction, a more marginal read for the rest of us.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 December 2008
Brilliantly funny but dark, Robin has terminal cancer so I can't see how he'll manage to get into another book unless he has a sudden miracle cure or they mixed up his notes!
Hilarious pub crawl around Swansea and he describes the pubs we know so well, I almost felt like paying them a visit! Written very sharply with wonderful characters! Loved it!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2008
If you are Welsh or attached to the Welsh Tourist Board don`t read this book (I also recommend you not read any of Niall Griffiths works depicting the Northern Welsh in a similarly grim light).
For the rest of us this is a thoroughly good read. The double meaning in the title is revealed as our antihero struggles to redeem himself,if a little too late, as in Kiplings "If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn.....
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "hold on!"
I look forward to more from this author