Today’s book review is brought to you by novelist and poet Nikki Dudley.
He Died with His Eyes Open (Factory 1) by Derek Raymond
Synopsis: When a middle-aged alcoholic is found brutally battered to death on a roadside in West London, the case is assigned to a nameless detective sergeant, a tough-talking cynic and fearless loner from the Department of Unexplained Deaths at the Factory police station. Working from cassette tapes left behind in the dead man’s property, our narrator must piece together the history of his blighted existence and discover the agents of its cruel end. What he doesn’t expect is that digging for the truth will demand plenty of lying, and that the most terrible of villains will also prove to be the most attractive. In the first of six police procedurals that comprise the Factory series, Derek Raymond spins a riveting, and vividly human crime drama. Relentlessly pursuing justice for the dispossessed, his detective narrator treads where few others dare: in the darkest corners of London, a city of sin plagued by unemployment, racism and vice, and peopled by a cast of low-lifes, all utterly convincing and brought to life by Raymond’s pitch-perfect dialogue.
Derek’s book is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Died-His-Eyes-Open/dp/1852427965 and http://www.amazon.com/He-Died-His-Eyes-Open/dp/1852427965.
I was very excited to read the first instalment of Raymond’s Factory series and I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the most thrilling and satisfying reads I have had for a while.
The Factory series is set in Thatcher’s London, with a nameless sergeant from the Unexplained Deaths department of the London police as the protagonist. In the first page, we meet the murder victim, Charles Staniland, a tragic character who leaves behind recorded cassettes of his thoughts and a whole lot of mystery. In time, the Sergeant realises the cassettes are more important than he first thought, providing key information to help him identify the culprits.
The city is represented as gritty and desperate, hinting at the employment problems of the 1980s and a ruthless pursuit of self-interest. In turn, the grittiness is also present in the array of characters – for example Harvey Fenton, the brute who apparently only ‘mocked’ Staniland; Barbara, Staniland’s girlfriend who drove him to distraction with her cruelty; Staniland’s stepson, Eric who is addicted to hard drugs; and many more who are similarly loathsome and pathetic.
Despite all of this, the nameless Sergeant remains focussed, if not a bit obsessed with the case. The dialogue is sharp and witty, especially of the Sergeant. Sometimes it did seem like he had a joke for every occasion but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Also, for someone who isn’t familiar with the East End London slang, it might be a little difficult to always understand what the characters are actually saying, but it doesn’t take a genius to do the translation.
Overall, it was a thrilling read. The culprits weren’t exactly shocking but the investigation itself was always absorbing. The twists and turns were accomplished through believable and exciting methods. I even enjoyed the presence of the retro piece of technology, cassettes, as a way to impart information and give more of a sense of who Staniland was. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed being in the company of the nameless Sergeant and will certainly be getting my hands on the next Factory book in the series (The Devil’s Home on Leave).
Much recommended. A noir novel with a no-nonsense investigator who can generate a laugh, plus the added twist of the grittiness of 1980’s London. What more could you ask for?
THANKS TO… Mike Lipkin from Noir Journal for the contact, Melville House Publishers, for providing a review copy.
Thank you, Nikki. It sounds great.
She is the author of two psychological thrillers, Ellipsis and Semblance.
Additionally, Nikki has a poetry chapbook published by The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press.
She co-edits experimental writing magazine, streetcake.
You can find out more about her new YA novel at: http://projecttsunami.wordpress.com.
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