Crooked Justice by J R Stephenson

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Crooked Justice by J R Stephenson

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A man hides in anonymity with his moll, and a host of enemies are on the detective trail to find him. This aims to be a continent-spanning thriller, but gets delayed at the gate somewhat, before finding an air controller strike scuppers it all.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 320 Date: November 2008
Publisher: ShieldCrest
ISBN: 978-0955855719

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Meet Barry Johns. You'll see him coming - he's five hundred pounds if he's an ounce. Just don't ever lend him money - he won't pay it back. A businessman with a share of a nightclub on Cyprus, he goes there for a customary break, and finds his sort-of moll-type sort-of girlfriend has been installed as the bar dancer. He manages to tread both on the toes of his local colleague and some Greek rivals. And when a rival in London chases him up for thousands of pounds owed he decides to pack up and shut up. It's a big stone that hides him, but he leaves a very awkward trail for everyone wanting to upturn it and get their revenge.

It's a simple premise, allowing for the interaction of spunky female karate experts, feisty bully-boys, wannabe gangsters and drug runners, all interacting to a similar goal - Johns and his money, while not exactly wishing to collaborate. No-one in this world is exactly clean, likeable, or worthy of our wishes for success.

Which I would have suspected was one of the flaws of the book. Actually, it's not - the very structure of the book and its intent on making the rather ruthless type of hoodlum the driving character is to its benefit. Thus the novel breaks away from traditional thriller norms, and engages us with, not exactly nasty people (the worst cuss in this world is bastards!), but with unsavoury people defined as those we are gunning for.

That said, I cannot let the flaws here go. I'm quite sure there's not a two-page spread without some awkward lapse in proof-reading the punctuation. Noticable from the start, if not throughout, is the use of numbers in numerical form (which I was told was bad practice at least 20 years ago (drat! I meant twenty)). The dialogue gets to new levels of mundanity, and the pattern of 'he said, she said's does not allow it to flow as likeably as it should.

Things do not seem to be exactly entirely thought through. I'll pick one instance - an Englishman in Mijas, Spain, is alleged to stand out for not speaking Spanish (and when have all English tourists there been fluent?!) then the next paragraph is revealed to have spoken to no-one.

Finally, the blurb on the back introduces us to a whole new plot and characters that we only meet in the final third, lurching this book from the interesting continental chase and sort of 'criminal procedural' genre, to some business and banking saga I just could not engage with. Thus we gain a new character, seemingly based on our author himself, if his biography and photo are anything to go by, and the start of a whole new series of these books.

I would not say no to spending more time in this lightly sordid world, if the plot and presentation could match the intriguing changes to the genre norm. The characters held some interest, and the novelty of their aims did not allow for any second-guessing of the plot whatsoever. But the writing made the exercise a lot less easy to read, enjoyable and interesting as it should have been.

I must still thank the author for sending me a review copy.

We at the Bookbag recommend Ravens by George Dawes Green for a brilliant look at shady, nasty characters, and the people surprisingly not too keen on chasing them.

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