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by Ken Bruen
Kate's Mystery Books, February 2003
416 pages
ISBN: 1932112022

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This novel is billed as a trilogy, but it's really a three-part narrative. No matter. It's set in southeast London where the mean streets are about as mean as they get. It's where everyone is at least a little bent and everything is suspicious, rife with double meanings. If you're looking for a little redemption or perhaps one character who is pure, this is not the crime novel for you.

Here the cops are bugging each other, ratting on each other, and taking bribes right and left, and not just cash or merchandise. Here's a neighborhood in which the worst low-life gang leader seriously entertains dreams of rising to the heights of the social ladder; here's a place in which the turbulence of routine daily life is so loud and riotous sleep is nearly impossible.

THE WHITE TRILOGY follows the antics and the actions of several police personnel through attempts to make major arrests of horrendous local criminals and gang leaders. There's even an abortive international chase. The title comes from police jargon in which the solution of a major crime is termed a white. It certainly doesn't refer to the process of detection -- or to any of the major characters if white is your color of goodness. These stories embrace a vast cast of characters, few of whom are principal but all of whom make major contributions to the narrative and none of whom can be considered on the side of the angels. It's all a matter of degree.

Chief Inspector Roberts, nearing retirement, is hanging on to his administrative post by hook or, mostly, by crook. He is a venal, incompetent man who hates his cheating wife and would undoubtedly murder her if he could find the time to set it up. One of his major problems is Detective Sergeant Brant, an out-and-out Irish thug who forces bribes from every merchant he encounters.

Brant appears to have a single saving grace. He has a complete collection of Ed McBain novels, a hero of his. And he does try to apprehend criminals who commit worse crimes than he perpetrates. The female constables, chief among them, Susie Falls and her chum Rosie, are no better in the constant struggle just to stay alive and avoid apprehension.

Bruen writes a fast, muscular book. You have to pay attention. Apart from the British argot and unfamiliar organizational structure, Bruen's style is not your typical American crime novel. But it's fun, in a nasty sort of way, enthralling, thought-provoking and surprising. All in all a cracking good novel.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, January 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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