A Case of Noir by Paul D Brazill

Number 8 in the Close To The Bone’s ‘Knuckle Cracking Novella’ series.

Don’t read this review, let alone the book, if you’re of a sensitive disposition. A Case of Noir is an exhilarating gritty entertainment. This book and me was best friends for a couple of hours yesterday because for me a decent noirish pulp is like a fix. Okay, I don’t need it daily, but I don’t like the gap between hits to grow too long either – best to avoid the withdrawal symptoms, so I was glad to find this one. Some people need love and romance, (there’s sort of a bit of that here – in a lustfully twisted way), but I need cold, hard edged cynicism and bouts of verbal jousting that lead to mindless violence in a sort of satirical, belly laughing kind of way. Something to: ‘shake me up, Judy!’ What better than a heady mix of cross, double cross, murder and mayhem to do that – if A Case of Noir were a cocktail it would be a ‘pan galactic gargle blaster’. This novella is irreverent, blackly comic, dirty, grim and very well written. Old Trumpy might recommend something like a shot of coke adulterated with rat poison and bleach as a cure for Covid-19, but my vote goes to A Case of Noir – Only try the latter at home kids!
A Case of Noir opens in Warsaw’s Ajeja Jana Pawla district; cold, stormy, uninviting, unappealing unless you like a bit of sleaze with your frost bite. The narrator looks out on to:
‘Sex shops, peep shows and twenty-four-hour bars, booze shops and kebab shops were pretty much the only buildings that I could see, apart from the Westin Hotel, with its vertigo inducing glass elevator…’
Into this touching scene come two cop cars chasing a taxi, which then crashes. When the cops catch up to the fleeing driver they smack him around a bit before throwing him in to the back of a van. Luke’s attention is refocused inside the room as Tatiana pours him a drink, he tells us:
‘Her English was perfect but her Ukrainian accent was as dark and as bitter as the Galois that she deeply inhaled.’
You might think these are star crossed lovers but they just haven’t got the financial arrangements out of the way yet. Money on the table, the blow job is duly delivered, not that I’m saying Tatiana doesn’t really like Luke maybe she does? The post coital imbibe is underway when a gorilla tries to break the room door down. The only way to react is to wait out Bronek, a love sick client. Eventually he’ll go away and they can leave. Sure enough at midnight the knocking stops as the big man sets off to church before going home to the wife and kids. Luke heads for Rory’s Irish Pub and by the end of the night there’s only Rory, Sean, the disillusioned alcoholic EFL teacher, and Luke left. That is until the gorgeous blonde walks in. Crazy Jola is the wife of mid-level gangster, second hand clothes baron, Robert Nowak. He owns another Irish bar, The Emerald Isle. Sean warns him but Luke isn’t thinking with his head. The hack, (Luke is a journo), and gangster’s moll chat before heading to the tap room for a tup. As the weeks go by Luke goes back to Tatiana, she tells him about her abusive husband and her lesbian lover, they’ve got a rapport but he can’t forget Jola. Eventually he heads back to the Emerald Isle, they reconnect and then:
‘You know’, she said. ‘Life with Robert is like a living death these days. I really do want to get away. Escape. I’ve managed to save some money, but it’s not enough. Anyway…’
Now you’ve got a rough idea where this adventure is going but Brazill likes surprises and curve balls and corkscrew twists. The dialogue is sharp and the prose pared down. The people on these pages are an assortment of eccentrics, odd balls, kooks, misfits, liars, drug dealers, killers, creeps, femme fatales (plural) and a priest (of sorts). A Euro-roving odyssey take us to Seatown (where it all began), Madrid, Granada, Toulouse, and Cambridge. Chock full of cultural references from Dickens to the Fun Boy Three. This is a darkly inventive and clever entertainment, the love child of hardboiled/noir/pulp of old but this is a thoroughly modern tale.
Buying this book was the best £2.50 I spent all week and not just because it was the only £2.50 I spent this week on account of lock down, (Still available on Amazon for £2.99 as of 30/5/20). I’m off to buy Paul D Brazill’s new book: Man of the World (All Due Respect Press, April 2020).
Close to the Bone Publishing, paperback, 2017. ISBN: 9781521043998.

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