Friday, March 8, 2019
Last Year’s Man by Paul D. Brazill
Tommy Bennett, an aging gun for hire, reluctantly comes to the conclusion that he is too old for his chosen profession. That profession is killing people and doing it efficiently with no trace of his involvement.
The story opens with Tommy on a job. A moment’s negligence on his part screws up a nice clean hit. It leaves him wondering if it is time to get out of the business. His next job goes wrong, too, but in a much bigger way, and Tommy is no longer wondering. He has to quit and run.
With little money and no passport, there are few places Tommy can go. He chooses to return to his hometown, a small city by the sea that has seen better days. Brazill highlights the city’s decay as Tommy takes in the town for the first time in many years. He gets off the train and notes the shops that are gone and the once proud statute in of “an old civic dignitary,” with a road cone on its head, and “the remnants of a Chinese take-away in its outstretched hand.”
He isn’t in town five minutes when he stumbles into a killing in a crummy bar. Soon, he is back in the company of violent crooks and con men he knew in his youth. But Tommy has to make a living and the local criminals remember him as a guy who can make things happen.
The slangy speech of Brazill’s characters not only gave me a laugh, but also provided an instant picture of the speaker. In a few words, Brazill describes characters. Of an underworld dame, Tommy says, “Bev smiled but there was the familiar razor-sharp look in her eyes.” Placing razor and eyes in the same sentence made me cringe and I knew just what Bev looked like. Later, Tommy calls a local heavy, “an ex-copper who was so bent you could use him to unblock your toilet.”
Last Year’s Man is a raw story seen through the eyes of Tommy Bennett, and is another fine job from Paul D. Brazill. I rarely say this about a book, but I wish this one was longer so I could spend more time with Tommy.
(And, if you enjoy crime novels with lots of action, please check out Lyme Depot. Thanks.)
(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)