Book Review: Four Days by Iain Ryan


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