Book Review: Four Days by Iain Ryan

FOUR DAYS

Author: Iain Ryan

Publisher: Broken River Books

Release Date: November 2015

Four Days is a hellish police procedural which unfolds in Queensland, Australia between September 1984 and January 1986. The story centres on Jim Harris, a lazy hard-drinking detective whose alcoholism seemingly helps to blur his moral boundaries as he works alongside a posse of venal, self-serving cops on the make. When a brutal murder case unsettles Harris’s bleak equilibrium, it forces him to dig deeper than he ever has before, and he seeks to redeem himself against him numerous past indiscretions. Marginalised, humiliated and dangerously close to the edge, Harris is determined to end it – before it ends him.

A queasy, hungover mood permeates Four Days, and the tawdry private life of boozy loner Harris is raked over in forensic detail as the book judders towards its bloody climax. Mid-1980s Australia is painted with a muted palette, and the only splashes of colour come from the spilled blood or the garish interiors of the many Cairns and Brisbane brothels which the characters frequent.

Ryan’s prose is impressively understated: brisk and razor-sharp throughout, and his knack for nastiness and corruption recalls early James Ellroy. If you are sick of flabby police procedurals this grim novella is a welcome antidote. Make no mistake, Four Days trims away the fat and cuts to the fucking bone.

Review by Tom Leins

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Book Review: Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias

ZERO SAINTS

Author: Gabino Iglesias

Publisher: Broken River Books

Release Date: October 2015

Zero-Saints-Gabino-Iglesias-Broken-River-Books

As Zero Saints gets underway, enforcer and drug dealer Fernando is snatched off the street by a posse of heavily-tattooed gangsters and bundled into their car. They drive him to an abandoned house, where they proceed to dismember one of his associates in front of him. Disturbed by the sheer brutality of what he has just witnessed, Fernando warns his drug-lord boss, and then enlists the help of a Santeria princess, a Russian hitman and a number of other local luminaries – all of whom agree to watch his back.

While, on the surface, Zero Saints may seem like nothing more than an enjoyably violent pulp thriller, it is elevated to something far more striking by the author’s genre-trampling approach to the supernatural. The grisly, inexplicable elements of the book are among the most memorable, and yet they never feel unwieldy. Iglesias manipulates genre tropes to create something highly original, and the regular use of ‘Spanglish’ language heightens the alien mood yet further.

From the traumatic opening through to the stomach-churning finale, Zero Saints’ brisk narrative flows effortlessly – like blood in the Austin gutters. This is a gripping novella that marks Gabino Iglesias out as one to watch.

Reviewed by Tom Leins