Nick’s father is a stand-up Irishman—once a cop, now a security guard in the World Trade Center’s North Tower—but Nick does not take after his old man. He’s “got the bad drop,” meaning he only cares about booze, violence, and getting into trouble with his best friend, Todd, a low-level hood connected to the Boston mob. Todd inducts Nick into the world of petty crime. What starts as a bit of good fun—robbing apartments, scoring weed—turns serious as Todd gets closer to the inner circle. He may not love violence as much as Nick does, but he’s about to get more than his fair share. How can friendship survive in an underworld built on pain?
A brutal and uncompromising collaboration from the doyen of Irish crime, Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the gritty Moe Prager series. With each relating the same story from the point of view of Nick (Bruen) and Todd (Coleman) what ensues is a perfect slice of noir detailing the friendship between two guys drawn into a world of violence at the behest of ruthless Irish crime boss Boyle and under the uncompromising glare of Boyle’s sadistic henchman Griffin. As they sink deeper into the realms of organised crime is there really going to be a way out when the breaking point beckons for them both…
Nick is a quintessentially Bruen creation, invested with a sharp intelligence, ready wit and propensity for violence. Named after his ex-cop father’s favourite Hemingway character, he is an archetypal bad boy, running wild from an early age with a stint in juvie hall leading him into a life of crime- as his father says ‘You’re nothing but a punk’. Nick is a wondefully smart-mouthed character, always walking the tightrope between knowing when to keep his mouth shut and when to suck it up. He also has a healthy disregard for his employer Boyle, mocking his exaggerated Irish brogue and quickly realising that Boyle’s right-hand man Griffin poses a far greater danger to his physical well being. Bruen’s pitch perfect characterisation of Nick, fair carries the reader along, with his narrative coming at you like a hail of bullets from a machine gun- sharp, punchy and unrelenting. As Nick experiences a kind of epiphany and seeks to assuage his conflicting loyalties, so Bruen unfolds his character a little more, and a little more, revealing a different side to him but never losing the intensity of the rapid fire prose.
Nick’s cohort, Todd strikes me as a more circumspect character, although imbued with the same sense of self-preservation as , and an equal propensity for violence. Coleman depicts Todd in a steady and measured way, reflecting Todd’s even handed and less volatile character but still with the trademark spare prose Coleman is known for. Initially, he like Nick just appears to be a bit of a bad boy happy to be at the beck and call of Boyle, but Todd’s on the cusp of a change that will threaten both himself and Nick. The relating of the same narrative from the two viewpoints works brilliantly with the reader feeling the strength of Nick and Todd’s relationship, as the story steams it’s way to a heart-rending conclusion. The other players in the story are equally well drawn with the bad and the good among them manipulating the lives and emotions of Nick and Todd, for better or worse, and there is even time within the plot for the boys to fall for some feminine charms, again revealing another side to the two bad boys, and adding another facet to what could simply be a tale of wiseguys and shoot-ups.
I loved this short and sharp rat-a-tat tale reflecting the sheer talent of both Bruen and Coleman in terms of character, dialogue and plot but there’s even more to it- oh yes-
‘Tower’ is also a great vehicle for discovering other writers, with each chapter beginning with a well chosen quote that perfectly reflect the content of the upcoming chapter. I have discovered some hitherto unknown to me authors, so on top of this being a noir read par-excellence you too can add to your burgeoning bookshelves with some new names. Cracking.
(I read ‘Tower’ as a digital galley from Open Road Media via www.netgalley.com )