The Syndicate by Guy Bolton

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The Syndicate by Guy Bolton

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: James Donald
Reviewed by James Donald
Summary: An excellent and engaging thriller that shows a snapshot of Americana through the lens of classic noire. This is great fun and nicely develops a sense of growing claustrophobia and tension.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2018
Publisher: Point Blank
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1786074317

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Set in Post War America, with a society finding its feet again, this thriller weaves its way through the glitz of Hollywood, the dirt of Mob rule and the birth of an American institution. Whilst most of this book is set in Hollywood the whole story sits in the shadow of the birth of Las Vegas. We open with the murder of a high level Mob boss and when the Police and FBI refuse to properly investigate, his associates decide to bring in their own detective. Retired legend, Jonathon Craine, only wanted a quiet life away from the Studios, the Police, and most of all The Mob but they wouldn't let him have that. From the shocking start to the dramatic conclusion this is a great and compelling read.

Guy Bolton is a screen writer but unlike some authors with this background this doesn't negatively impact on the work. The opening few paragraphs alone sit like scene setting from a script but the rest of it flows as a novel should. Bolton moves between characters with great ease and develops all the main players well. He manages to shock us when it matters; one of the scene on the farm early on comes completely out of left field and leaves us on the edge of our seats for the rest of the book.

Whilst this is, at its core, a noir thriller, the modern world, and our knowledge of history very much plays a part in the story. Perhaps this comes from Bolton's screenwriting background. It is a common trick in film to show the audience something that the characters don't see. In this book, we are kept in the dark about the crime but we know the bigger picture. We know how Vegas will develop, we know about the history of the studios and we know about how the FBI grows. This and a range of other real-world knowledge allows us to have a totally different point of view to the characters who have to find their way through the plot blindly.

Our main heroes are likeable and develop well through the story. The plot moves at a quick enough pace and it has enough twists and turns to keep us hooked. All in all this is a great novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.

For further reading go back to the master of the genre with The Return of the Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett.

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