The Last Card by Kolton Lee

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The Last Card by Kolton Lee

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A gambling boxer finds he has to keep the gloves on as his life in London's underworld proves more violent than he thought.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 272 Date: June 2007
Publisher: Maia Press Limited
ISBN: 978-1904559252

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Take a boxer with a gambling addiction, who never quite made it to the big time. Add a criminal overlord in his nightclub headquarters, who is miffed that his latest protection racket attempt has come back empty-handed. Collide with a bloody end to a night on the cards, and you have the premise of this thriller.

If someone else hasn't said that the makings of a good thriller are in the detail, then I'll happily be the first. If only because a lot of the details we get in this book are just so laughable. Everything, from the rap tracks played at the boxing gym, to the clothes, bling, cars and guns various characters wear or use are itemised to ridiculous detail, and totally without irony. Our hero, when he has won big on the cards, dreams of a happy life, and - I can barely type it - a bread bin.

Now the very image of a tough black Londoner, with years of exposure to violence, grittiness, drugs, card marathons and thousands of pounds changing hands, and fighting against the fact his name is Hilary, relishing taking a bread bin home to his lady-friend and son, will stay with me for a long time. Not a lot of the rest of the book will - I knew within a very short time the gangster's moll would end up sleeping with the hero, even if she has reasons he (and the gangster) are not aware of. I knew there would be a return to the ring our hero was trying to refuse. I didn't realise the whole affair, with nods to a Shakespearean redistribution of power, would end up being so anaemic.

I can't dismiss the writing totally - silly little bits aside there is nothing of note either very favourable or unfavourable. The plotting is shall we say secure, in that there is nothing too poor, nor anything that can surprise us in the slightest. There comes a big sigh however, when the way our hero has to redeem himself is described with a large trowel.

The publishers and blurb-writers would have it that this is an insight into the underworld of London we would all rather didn't exist. That is more pertinent than it is aware. If the depiction of card sharks, hookers, gangsters and idiots is real, then I just don't want to know - say it makes my blood run cold, if you want to be dramatic. And if the character list and plot is not realistic, then again - I just don't want to know.

It seems I have a complete downer on this book, so I should lighten up and say that for other people this might be their style of thriller, the milieu they want to read about. The book has some things to say about the life of a young black man on the streets of our capital. But for me it is just a pointless exercise. In a world of violent, uneducated black men and their willingness to gamble away the future they can't get a firm grasp on, the hero is only so because his violence (boxing) has some justification, he can at least think of a life without cards, and he isn't as racist as many of the other characters.

Still, he must be likeable - he fancies a new bread bin after all.

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Buy The Last Card by Kolton Lee at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Card by Kolton Lee at


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