Remind me never to visit the mean streets of Hamilton, Ontario anytime soon. After reading Darwin's Nightmare, the debut novel by Mike Knowles it seems everything but safe.
Our tour guide in this quick, gritty journey through the Hamilton underworld is a professional grifter known simply as Wilson. The story opens with Wilson swiping a package for his employer, the Italian mob led by Paolo Donati. Unfortunately, the package was a bag containing computer disks which contain crucial accounting information involving the Russian mob. Throw in a few computer nerds and Wilson is facing three enemies at once.
Wilson finds himself in between the two groups, who both end up wanting to kill him for different reasons in the battle for Hamilton supremacy. Forever the loner, Wilson has just one true friend - a bar owner named Steve who has Wilson to thank for even being alive.
"I thought to myself, a friend who will clean up dried blood for you is a friend for life."
The book was intense, exciting and in some parts very gruesome (one poor soul loses an ear and a nose before being stomped to death) but did not stand out in one way or another. It was definitely a stellar first effort for Knowles, the Canadian elementary school teacher who will probably avoid reading this one to the kiddies.
Paolo Donati, the self-proclaimed "King of the f****** jungle" was your typical mafia don. He and Wilson were always at odds, especially when our protagonist assisted in taking the life of Donati's top henchman, but Wilson was always spared.
One thing I enjoyed was Knowles describing the steps Wilson took before executing any task. Wilson would meticulously scout a building before parking a few blocks away and walking toward imminent danger. However, this grew tedious at times.
Darwin's Nightmare did not feature the usual Hollywood ending but it wasn't much better. Would I recommend this to a fan of Hammett? Nah.
Overall, the story featured a high body count and a low quality ending.