(Reviewed by Mary Whipple JAN 11, 2008)
"This is how I spend most of my time these days. Sitting. Waiting. Watching. Listening to music at an inconspicuous volume and hoping to Christ I don't get spotted. When I started this job, I was prison-hard. I wasn't afraid to walk down them mean streets with a rude wit and clenched fists. I had ideas. But the streets take their toll, and I soon found out it was safer to sit in a car than be out in the open. I don't run as fast as I'd like."
Dark, violent, and filled with non-stop action, this British PI novel, set on the meanest streets of Manchester and Newcastle, features a PI who claims that being a detective is not a job he ever wanted to do. "I got good at tracking down ex-offenders, maybe because I was one," Callum Innes explains. Newly released from prison, Cal is talked into doing a "favor" for Morris Tiernan, an organized crime lord responsible for more than thirty murders. Afraid that his psychopathic son Mo will mess up the job, Tiernan has "persuaded" Cal to find Rob Stokes, a dealer in Tiernan's private gambling club who stole ten thousand dollars and disappeared. Once Cal finds Stokes, he is to contact the sadistic Mo Tiernan, who will then take over.
Cal and Mo have a "history." Cal considers Mo responsible for the more than two years he had to spend in jail. Mo, in turn, is jealous that his father has assigned Cal to find Stokes, and he believes that if he can find Stokes first, that he can work his way back into his father's good graces. The narrative, alternating between the point of view of Cal Innes and that of Mo Tiernan, is easy to follow, since Mo is terminally stupid, and his narrative, peppered with local street slang and obscenities, becomes mordantly humorous. Cal, who often finds his fists more useful than his brain, is not much more literate than Mo, but he does try to find a direction in life—if only to stay out of jail—and he does understand how the world works—at least the world he inhabits.
As the search for Stokes moves from Manchester to Newcastle, where Stokes appears to have fled with a sixteen-year-old girl, the action—and gore—ratchet up. Cal is not only dodging the vicious Mo, he is also trying to avoid a brutal Manchester policeman who has accused him of assault—believing the word of the woman who tried—and failed—to hire him to kill her husband. As Cal comes closer to finding Stokes and the girl, he also becomes a real detective, discovering aspects of Mo Tiernan's life which make the search for Stokes and the girl even more pressing—and make Mo's determination to find and stop Cal more urgent.
Bleak and full of violence, the novel features fights, an attempted drowning by toilet bowl, beatings, and legs broken by cricket bat—and that's by the "good guys!" The "bad guys" are even more violent. Cal, of course, is on both the giving and receiving ends of all this activity. The characters throughout the novel are universally unlikable, the twists and turns of the action reveal even more depravity than previously imagined, and the "surprise" ending brings no catharsis with it. Banks creates vivid scenes filled with specific details—everything from brands of cars, complete with dents, to close-up depictions of torture and maiming. Focused on man's inhumanity to man and the unavoidability of misery, this is noir fiction at its "noir-est."
- Amazon readers rating: from 5 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
Cal Innes series:
- Saturday's Child (2006; January 2008 in US)
- Sucker Punch (2007; February 2009 in US)
- No More Heroes (2007)
- Beast of Burden (2008)
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- Official website for Ray Banks
- Thrilling New Detective Fiction, Cal Innes story by Ray Banks
- Crime Scene, writing The Big Blind
- Secret Dead Blog interview on The Big Blind
- Shots Ezine interview on Saturday's Child
- Page 99 test of Saturday's Child
- Crime Scene Scotland review of Saturday's Child
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About the Author:
Ray Banks was born in 1977 in Kirkcaldy, Fife, but grew up in the north of England.
Banks spent two years at university but dropped out before completing his final year. Before establishing himself as a crime writer, he tried a number of different careers, including stints as a wedding singer, a double-glazing salesman, an office temp and a croupier. This particular job came to an abrupt end when the casino was ram-raided one night and Ray decided it just wasn’t worth the personal risk for the sake of other people’s money.
Ray has written articles for Noir Originals, Crimespree, the now-defunct Mystery Circus and Crime Scene Scotland. He is also a regular contributor to rock ’n’ roll noir magazine Bullet.
He currently lives in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with his wife Anastasia.