Even Flow by Darragh McManus
|Even Flow by Darragh McManus|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: A pacey, jaw-breaking, door-busting thriller that packs as big a question as it does a punch: where do we draw the line between righteous retribution and criminal behaviour?|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 216||Date: September 2012|
|External links: Author's website|
Jonathon Bailey, Cathy Morrissey and Patrick Broder of Network 4 News sit in a viewing room unable to believe their eyes as the courier-delivered VT flickers in front of them. Wealthy banker's son and society playboy Cliff Hudson seems to be suspended from the top of a tall building by his ankles. He's tied to a friend identified as 'Steve', both terror stricken and whimpering an apology prompted by three men oddly dressed in tuxedos and balaclavas. As the city will soon come to realise, these men (pseudonyms Wilde, Whitman and Waters) are the 3W Gang, sworn to do society's dirty work for it as they isolate and punish bigots. Crusaders or criminals? Detective Danny Everard of the NYPD doesn't have the luxury of choosing, just the headache of trying to catch them.
Darragh McManus (a journalist, music fan and, when he has time, international man of mystery) has written something just that little bit different. In this his first 'paper' novel (his first published venture being the e-book Cold! Steel! Justice!!!) he's written a highly entertaining thriller with one dimension more than some thrillers can boast.
Even the names of the three 'heroes' echo from the depths. Wilde, Whitman and Waters are named after three gay icons from various eras: poets Oscar and Walt and film director John. As the 3W Gang they're working on behalf of ordinary people (us) to make homophobes, misogynists and bullies think twice. To begin with it's funny. We inwardly cheer as our three witty, urbane gang members teach the overgrown frat boys enforced lessons in tolerance. We smile at amusing emails eruditely deflating the prejudiced clichéd arguments. Danny the detective even harbours grudging admiration for reasons that slowly emerge. However, eventually reality dawns…
As well as hurtling readers along at a fair crack, Even Flow is a fable and which opens it up to possible criticism. For it may be said that the novel's characters (with perhaps the exception of Danny Everard) aren't fully fleshed out. If this becomes a focus of concentration then the point has been missed. By this I mean when examining classic fable writing how much backstory is there? For instance, in The Tortoise and The Hare did Aesop wax lyrically about the hare's profession or the tortoise's living arrangements? These were stories that challenged without detail surplus to requirements and, in this book Darragh McManus follows that tradition whilst examining knee jerk reactions.
Should we question our own emotions? We may cheer the vigilantes but is this vicarious encouragement a form of prejudice in itself? Can working towards perceived public good become a crime in itself; a form of bigotry in its own right as the purveyors of evil face impromptu justice, unrepresented?
Slowly the novel ceases to be funny and our allegiances become ambiguous as the plot darkens. The amusing emails change to thought provoking between-chapter comic strips. These three men have the best of motives; examples of well intentioned 'everyman' coming from our own law-abiding ranks, a point reinforced by a high school newspaper clipping slipped in before the nerve jangling finale.
Please don't assume this is a thinly-disguised psychology text though. If you just want to chill over a ripping read then Even Flow delivers as well as a Lee Child or a Tom Grieves. It's just as action-packed and atmospherically tense. For instance the newsroom live interview scene: the uncertainty is palpable as anchor Jonathon speaks live on air whilst not knowing what the loose cannon at the other end of the line will come out with.
After this treat of a debut, what next for Mr M? The Polka Dot Girl, his second 'paper' novel is due out in January 2013; enticingly described as mysterious, sexy, shadowy and suggestive and a little bit spooky. Meanwhile, though, he's left us plenty to be getting on with - Even Flow isn't the sort of book you only read once.
A special thank you to Roundfire for sending us a copy of this book for review. We also have a review of McManus's Shiver the Whole Night Through.
If you've enjoyed this and want something as similarly 'grabbing', we suggest Sleepwalkers by Tom Grieves.
You can read more book reviews or buy Even Flow by Darragh McManus at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Even Flow by Darragh McManus at Amazon.com.
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