This is a book that could have used some serious definition, instead of simply placing asterisks between sections. Those asterisks, one learns after much confusion, indicate a shift to another character. And some of the characters are written in third person, some in the first. As well, the copy-editing leaves much to be desired. (Who's instead of whose was one of my favorite goofs.) References to both Beatniks and hippies in supposedly the same era distorts the time frame--Beatniks were of the 50s, hippies of the latter 60s and early 70s. So it's not only hard to jump from one character to the next, it's also tough figuring out the era.
At moments, the book leaps to life and for twenty or thirty pages it becomes gripping. Then the grip eases and we're back in the muddle--reading of characters about whom it's hard to care; killers, cops, thugs of every stripe. And, finally, an ending that leaves one thinking, "So what?"
A very disappointing effort.
This entertaining crime novel is Arnott's follow-up to "The Long Firm" - although it's not strictly a sequel, it's similar in format, and several of the characters from the earlier novel reappear. I thought that it was a good read, though I imagine that it will not surprise or overly impress real crime fiction fans (I am a strict amateur!).
The action takes place mostly in 1966, the strongest part of the book in my opinion, then shifts to 1971 and then again to 1985. Arnott paints a picture of an English underworld in which both criminals and corrupt police operate to their mutual advantage. Yet, this is not a self-contained substratum of society - the dividing lines between the criminal world and "respectable" society are very grey.
Arnott's England is one which is increasingly at odds with itself: the tension of the "swinging" yet still repressed 1960s; prone to mindless violence (soccer riots of the 1970s); and riven by the bitter strife of the mid-1980s. The establishment has lost its way, become corrupt and lost the confidence and respect of the masses it purports to lead.
I enjoyed this novel (as I did "The Long Firm"). Whether or not Arnott can go on to develop new themes in future novels remains to be seen.