“ Paperback: 528 pages / Publisher: Pan Books / New edition: 10 Aug 2001 „
I recently reviewed a Shaun Hutson book called Necessary Evil and I described it as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels meets Spooks. This book, Exit Wounds by the same author is all Lock and Stock, none of that Spooky cloak and dagger stuff. It's blinding, geezer (all of this cockney gangster speak is rubbing off on me - even my trouble and strife says so).
Before I give any more opinion, I'll briefly describe what the story is about. Crime in London is ran by Billy Parker, a gangster with enough people in his pocket to make sure he never gets caught and only ever gets more powerful. Frank Newton is a criminal, but as successful in crime as Greece are at paying their national debt off. Frank raids a money van which has been collecting from betting shops - it just so happens that the money belongs to Mr Parker. Billy Parker now makes sure that he puts Frank and his gang into his pocket, and uses Frank's crew to put down a challenge from a Yardie boss, Papa Ernie Codling who is trying to muscle in on the businesses that Billy runs.
Frank can't refuse Parker's proposition - he stole from him and is lucky not to be paying with his life. However, as Frank tries to stop Papa Codling, the stakes get higher as Billy imposes more conditions on Frank's task. Frank gets to Codling, but that's as much as I'll say and certainly won't reveal the full nature of the outcome - all I will say is that I didn't expect what did happen at all and was pleasantly surprised.
At first, when reading Exit Wounds, I feared it might turn out like Necessary Evil - not that Necessary Evil is a bad book, but I read them quite close together and would have preferred something a bit different so soon after. However, as the story developed, Exit Wounds is just a good old fashioned gangster story, set in London. For a bit of added interest, Frank is also being pursued by a Detective Inspector John Ridley who is initially after Frank for the raid on the betting shop collection van but soon gets a hunch that Frank is now up to something on behalf of Billy Parker so sees a chance of bringing down the crime boss as well.
The fact that DI Ridley is after Frank adds some twists welcome tension to the twists and turns Frank must make to stay one step ahead, whilst at the same time keeping Billy Parker happy and not letting Codling suspect that he is being targeted by Parker.
I like the feel of this story - it's real to the point that I could hear the character's cockney accents as I read (though to be fair, they did all sound like Jason Statham!) and there wasn't anything too left field in there to ruin the realism. I feel that in the past, Shaun Hutson has been guilty of being too far fetched which can spoil a good story, but he's got the balance of this one just right.
The overall story took me a little bit by surprise in that he's normally a horror writer - I would say that this is a gritty, well paced crime story with the timeless elements of honour and revenge thrown in. Very enjoyable, would recommend to anyone who likes a tale about gangsters in London. Five stars, thanks for reading.