“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Two-Way Split by Allan Guthrie

“The holdall sat on the bed like an ugly brown bag of conscience.” Fans of classic crime writing will get a kick or five out of Two-Way Split, and we’re talking classic: Allan Guthrie’s multi-character exploration of Edinburgh’s underbelly marries the spare, laconic prose of James M. Cain with the psychological grotesqueries of Jim Thompson at his most lurid. And yet this is by no means a period piece. Guthrie’s unhurried, deadpan style is timeless even as it evokes the changing face of modern Edinburgh, as seen through the eyes of the novel’s most sympathetic character, Pearce – although sympathetic is a relative term, given that Pearce has been recently released from prison after serving a ten-stretch for premeditated murder. The most delicious aspect of the tale is its refusal to indulge in the sturm und drang of hyperbolic gore, despite being couched in the narrative of a revenge fantasy. Instead, and while it fairly bristles with the frisson of potential violence at every turn, Guthrie cranks up the tension notch by notch by the simple expedient of having his characters grow ever more quietly desperate as the pages turn. The result is a gut-knotting finale that unfurls with the inevitability of all great tragedy and the best nasty sex – it’ll leave you devastated, hollowed out, aching to cry and craving more. – Declan Burke

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