When three London policeman are murdered, a number of people are irrevocably affected, including Sid, a tabloid journalist who harbors a scandalous secret; Detective Sargeant Frank Taylor, who is plagued by corruption within the department; and ex-soldier Billy Porter, a killer who is immersed in a life of crime and violence.
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Jake Arnott is the author of The Long Firm, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic and being adapted as a five-part BBC series. He lives in London.
Imagine a British version of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential minus much of its imagination and blazing energy and you'll have some idea of this disappointing follow-up to Arnott's highly regarded 2001 debut thriller, The Long Firm (soon to be a BBC miniseries). Like Ellroy, Arnott chooses to tell his period story through multiple voices in this case, three young men whose lives and fates intertwine over the course of many years: Billy Porter, a soldier who becomes a criminal and winds up killing three police officers in 1966; Frank Taylor, an ambitious copper whose best friend and former partner was one of the victims; and Tony Meehan, a gay journalist with a psychotic streak. Using a real case (the killer's name was Harry Roberts, and British football hooligans and later Vietnam protestors used to sing, to the tune of "London Bridge Is Falling Down," "Harry Roberts is our friend,/ is our friend,/ is our friend./ Harry Roberts is our friend,/ He Kills Coppers!") and newsreel-like flashes from such actual events as the World Cup Final game between England and Germany and police raids on Soho vice dens, Arnott tries to paint a picture of a country crippled by moral decay, and usually succeeds in that department. Fans of the first book will recognize a few of the characters who make appearances here; the trouble is that none of the three protagonists is very interesting or original, and the words Arnott uses to bring their thoughts and feelings to life (Tony's "As I fought with my own personal Enemy Within I could content myself with voyeuristic pleasures in the slow surcease of my desperate longings" is fairly typical) fizzle rather than sizzle.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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