Paul D. Brazill is no stranger to the Gutter and his weekly take on the British crime scene has become required reading for those who want the latest news on hard-boiled happenings from this side of the pond. So I thought it was high time we checked out some of Paul’s own Brit Grit and warmed up the winter with a little Death on a Hot Afternoon.
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This is the second novelette (that word is really too twee for a noir book) to feature the exploits of jaded newspaper hack, Luke Case. He first appeared in the Warsaw based, Red Esperanto and if you have read that razor sharp tale it will come as no surprise to hear that this hard drinking journo is once again soaked in booze and up to his neck in something seedy.
Having escaped the snows and gangsters of Poland, Luke is now propping up the backstreet bars of Madrid and scratching his living from the lower end publications of the Spanish Press. Luke shares an apartment with another freelancer, Nathan Jones and its Nathan’s past that is about to catch up with both of them in the seductive shape of mysterious torch singer, Lena.
Death on a Hot Afternoon is a good old fashioned revenge story with its roots firmly planted in classic noir. Luke Case could have lived in 1940’s Chicago instead of modern day Madrid and been equally at home. So could the delectable Lena who is the embodiment of all things femme fatale, right down to her fuck-me-pumps and red nail polish.
The sultry heat of a Spanish summer is vividly captured in a narrative rich with pop culture and Paul’s wonderfully laid back, laconic style. I could have happily spent more time in the company of these characters and would have loved something a little longer, but like I keep telling my wife, size isn’t everything. In my book quality trumps quantity every time and Death on a Hot Afternoon has that in spades.