There are those that love the hubbub of the city, whilst others prefer the quiet tranquillity of the countryside. If you are a city lover I imagine that there are fewer exciting places to live than New York. New York is synonymous with what makes America great; rich, powerful, classy yet clueless. In such a large city it is very easy to get lost, but not very easy to find property. With millions of people all living within a relatively small radius it only takes a few bad apples in the big apple to cause problems. In a culture that is famed for its aloofness and impoliteness, a place where everyone is a stranger surely a serial killer could have a field day? New York so grim, they named it twice.
Cyrus is a typical rich New Yorker. His family wealth means that he does not have to work and can instead enjoy a life of luxury. However, Cyrus feels empty as even with all this money he has been unable to fulfil a yearning inside him. That is until one day when he finds a book that inspires him to become a serial killer. With such a huge population of people surly no one will miss a few random citizens? Can Quinn, an aspiring Irish writer, Tye, a women who will do anything for a free flat and Gus and Susie Niedermeyer, a country couple who have just moved to NY, survive the streets of the city?
Hells Kitchen is a multi narrative novel that managed to stay on track brilliantly throughout. Chris Niles introduces us to several separate storylines of people living in New York. The different stories do not meet except in passing until the final gripping conclusion. However, Niles always leaves the chance that someone may not quite make it till the end. This sense of tension is really built well and by describing the separate characters in their own environment Niles is able to make us care about their futures. Multi-narrative books can be very confusing if written poorly. It is a credit to the author that she has been able to handle all aspects the story without having to resort to confusing description or overly used coincidence.
By having such separate stories Hells Kitchen would have failed if the characters had been uninteresting. Luckily Niles has a very relaxed way of introducing characters to us that makes them your friends within pages. The fact that she was able to do this on several occasions, so that all the people in the book were fleshed out, is very impressive. My favourite character was probably Cyrus. Niles is able to describe what goes through Cyrus mind as he plans and executes murder. As this is a comedy novel the plot remains quite light and Cyrus motives are bizarre but believable. By keeping a light tone throughout the book Niles was able to prevent the subject matter from descending into a morbid and dark direction that it could so easily have taken.
As well as being funny, well written and having good characters the best part of the book for me was the very premise that it sat on. The book is about alienation and isolation within a large city. I think that the book will read differently for people depending whether they life in a large metropolis or not. As someone from the North who has visited London on numerous occasions I see it as an overly large and unfriendly place. However, on the other hand it is a vibrant city that offers more opportunities than the rest of the UK combined. Hells Kitchen explores the idea that a city is both exciting and dangerous. Part of the thrill of living in close proximity with so many people is a sense of the unknown. Niles plays on these fears and makes a very effective read.
With all the positives there is an issue that prevents it from being a classic. I felt that the separate storylines worked well but that they went on for slightly too long. The book would have worked better for me if the conclusion had come a bit sooner. By describing at least 4 separate threads Niles ended up making the book a little too long. However, as a whole the book is very well written and genuinely amusing. Niles has successfully created an interesting premise and populated it with characters you actually want to read about. If you are looking for a crime thriller that offers something different from your usual reading pattern, this could well be worth a try.
Author: Chris Niles
Price: amazon uk - £4.79
play.com - £4.99
Cyrus is a millionaire recluse - and a serial killer. Tye is a beautiful young woman from Notting Hill. Quinn is a writer who doesn't write. And Marion is the mother determined to find her vanished son and daughter-in-law - Cyrus's first victims. All collide in this black comedy set in New York.