‘Hard Cases’ is an excellent omnibus publication that is both entertaining and darkly thought provoking. The three noirish Ryan Kyd mysteries go from strength to strength as the reader can trace both the development of the central character and the increasingly complex themes.
All three tales demonstrate the author's trade marks: the fast paced narratives; the sharp and witty characterisation; the moral ambiguities; the crackling dialogue; the comic use of similes and the constant ability to surprise.
Throughout the collection Ryan Kyd, a so-called ‘hard boiled’ private detective displays the cynicism of the disappointed idealist yet we never lose sight of his underlying humanity and warmth. Roger Hurn has created a potential Marlowe or Hammer for London in the 21st century. Furthermore, he does not shy away from some fascinating moral ambiguities but confronts them with honesty; this is not comfortable 'Sunday evening slipper' detective fiction but gritty and realistic writing that asks some tough questions.
‘Business is Murder’ does a great job of establishing both the central protagonist and the London setting. The first person narrative enables the reader to get to know Ryan’s inner thoughts and gives the story an immediacy. A missing person case plunges Ryan into a world of shady business dealings, kidnapping and murder.
‘The Hand of Darkness’ is a fast paced, exciting thriller in which the hard boiled London private detective investigates a cult. As the conspiracy deepens he peels away the facade and penetrates corruption at the highest echelons of the political world. Ryan exemplifies the cynicism of someone who has witnessed the corruption of the financial, commercial and political worlds; and yet he is not purely an anti hero, we know that deep down it's because he cares, this is revealed through his interjections and observations to the reader.
In `The Dead of Winter' Ryan Kyd embarks on a quixotic journey through the London landscape following the trail of a missing necklace of great historical and financial importance. However, what moves this narrative into new territory is the development of Ryan Kyd's character. Roger Hurn gives us a much more complex protagonist, one in which the brash, cynical, outwardly arrogant façade begins to crack and we get a glimpse of a much more vulnerable, self deprecating, and at times, an almost alienated individual. A man capable of love, jealousy and betrayal, "... one that loved not wisely but too well".
All in all a cracking good read! Roger Hurn is quite a find and I eagerly await further Ryan Kyd mysteries.