THE DARK PLACE by Sam Millar (Brandon Press)
Little children look away now.
There’s a tagline running across the back of Belfast writer Sam Millar’s new crime novel, THE DARK PLACE, which I really hope isn’t true. It reads: “While most writers sit in their study and make it up, Sam Millar has lived it ...” For no-one, but no-one, deserves the type of punishment Sam metes out to his detective hero Karl Kane in this darkest of tales.
Kane is beaten to near-death twice, force-fed narcotics, raped by a crazed (and possibly venereal) vamp, cuckolded by at least one partner, and then blown up in an underground tunnel.
The people around him don’t fare much better either – his daughter is kidnapped by a particularly monstrous serial killer, his father develops late-onset Alzheimer’s and his best friend gets his throat slit helping our man track down the villain ...
But for all the gore, Millar is a riveting story-teller, leading the reader from crisis to catastrophe at a frenetic pace. And he skilfully punctures the darkness with moments of sharp humour too, getting great mileage out of Kane’s bawdy relationship with his new girlfriend. Indeed, the sarcastically suggestive pre-coital interchanges between Kane and Naomi are as highly charged as anything Chandler or Hammett ever scripted.
Like Marlowe, Kane has a touch of the white knight about him, and his idealism – and refusal to do the wrong thing – saves the book from its occasional lurches into horror-schlock. Indeed, if the book has a failing, it is that Millar has an inclination to lay it on too thick.
But then, what do I know? I sit in the study and make it up. Sam, I suspect, while he mightn’t have lived all of it, certainly has spent a lot more time in dark places than me.
If ever a novel were aptly named. - Garbhan Downey
“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.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE DARK PLACE By Sam Millar
Garbhan Downey gets in touch, not to promote his current tome, THE WAR OF THE BLUE ROSES, as you might expect, but to ask if I’d be interested in running a review of fellow Norn Ironer Sam Millar’s THE DARK PLACE. The answer is yes, and thank you kindly, sir, and the review runneth thusly: