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Review: Guns of Brixton by Paul D. Brazill

By Gabino Iglesias

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It's great to find an author whose voice reminds you of many others while still being entirely unique. Paul D. Brazill is one of those rare authors who pulls it off with flying colors. If you took Ken Bruen's candor, the best of Elmore Leonard's dialogues, sprinkled in some Irvine Welsh, and dragged it all through the dirtiest ditch in South London, the result will be something akin to Brazill's writing. In Guns of Brixton, Brazill's latest release with Byker Books, his prose is as good as ever and the story is as fun and wild as a brawl between the three authors mentioned.

Kenny Rogan and Big Jim Lawson are not the smartest criminals in the world. In fact, they're quite the contrary. When Big Jim is given the simple task of collecting a briefcase full of important documents from Half-Pint Harry, he stumbles. Usually stumbling is no big deal, but it gets pretty damn serious when you're holding a shotgun. With Half-Pint's brains plastered on the wall, things get complicated. Big Jim and Kenny try to take care of the body before anyone finds out, but not before dressing up in drag and robbing a jewelry store. When they have an accident and the briefcase disappears, many individuals will cross paths and become involved in a mess that grows progressively darker and bloodier.

This is a relatively short novel, but it's packed with well developed characters, an interesting plot full of twists, and a lot of action. The narrative moves forward at breakneck speed, but the way the story's put together demands attention because things happen fast and they all matter. Also, the characters are as important as the plot because they're all multilayered and offer distinctive and entertaining personalities that seem to jump off the page and demand the use of the word cinematic.

Although gangsters in drag, plenty of drugs, and a missing briefcase sound like an engaging plot, they don't begin to describe the plethora of little details that make Guns of Brixton a must-read for crime fiction lovers. From a murderous priest and a collection of pop culture references to Richard's desperate need to be away from his wife's whining and Lynne's hatred for her job at the jewelry store (not to mention her bra full of jewels), there's more than enough to keep readers amused and, most importantly, constantly on their toes.

Always save the best for last, right? Well, the best thing about Guns of Brixton isn't anything mentioned above. What ultimately makes this novel a pleasure to read is the humor. Make no mistake: this is as noir as it gets. There's plenty of violence, tension, death, booze, drugs, and blood. However, the dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny and there are enough one liners and bad jokes to put some stand-up comedians to shame. Brazill's capable of getting a laugh out of readers, but what's truly impressive is that he does so while simultaneously making them cringe. If you want to get a taste of how he does it, imagine what a shotgun enema looks like. Or, better yet, imagine a man telling you the story of a very horny group of dwarfs who start having sex wherever they can, including the space under your kitchen sink.

Brazill has a knack for larger-than-life characters, tar-black humor, and sharp plots, and Guns of Brixton offers a great deal of all that.