Colin Garrow, Death on a Dirty Afternoon

A book review for Mystery Thriller Week

Terry Bell has recently quit his job as a taxi-driver in Gateshead (on the Tyne, in the North-East of England), when two people associated with the taxi company meet with sudden deaths. First to go is Frank, another driver with the company. There’s nothing suspicious about the fact of Frank’s death — he seems to have suffered a heart attack — but that doesn’t explain how he ended up lying peacefully on his back on his own dining room table. Ronnie’s death, on the other hand, is definitely suspicious: somebody had bashed his skull in in Terry’s flat, and the murder weapon was covered in Terry’s fingerprints. Ronnie had been Terry’s former boss and had not been an easy man to get along with.

Terry is quick witted and a little cynical, with an entertaining turn of phrase and a crew of colourful friends and acquaintances. His attempts to work out what he’s got himself in the middle of, and what happened to his pal Frank, lead him into a confusing stew of greedy businessmen, corrupt developers and local government officials, traffickers in sex workers, cryptic threats, simmering violence and a curiously sinister holiday caravan park. Terry navigates this treacherous territory with aplomb. The novel’s real strength is Terry’s first-person narrative which manages to sound hard-boiled and vulnerable, wise-cracking and suspenseful, all at the same time. More like this, please.

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