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by Ken Bruen

Calibre rockets through the story of a group of cops (ala McBain’s 83rd Precinct) in London and the criminals they encounter.  Its characters are sharply drawn and distinct, and its dialog really pops.  If Bruen’s other books are half as enjoyable as this one, he’s got a new fan.

  • The killer and the main detective (a corrupt, charming, badass asshole named Brant) are both big murder mystery fans, with the former trying to become a character from a true crime novel, and the latter trying to become a novelist without actually doing any writing.  Ed McBain and Jim Thompson serve as inspirations for the two characters.
  • The use of the police squad storytelling style (ala McBain) works really well here, with the characters standing out vividly (even if they’re a bit caricatured).
  • The dark world of the police in Bruen’s novels sure is gritty — the police are only just a bit better than the criminals, the more successful of the former being the ones more likely to trample all over the latter.  But the detached violence and pragmatic reactions of all the characters paints a cynical, almost nihilistic world.  When your main detective is as amoral as Brant seems to be, it’s hard to imagine the cops as holding the moral high ground.
  • The only thing I wasn’t satisfied with was the ending.  It’s almost as if Bruen had a contract for 180 pages, and when he hit 175, he realized that he needed to wrap up some storylines, so he cranked out two or three pages to wrap up three storylines.  Not kidding.

An excellent read.  You should read it too.

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