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Smoking has become a cardinal sin in modern society. As a child I would happily go to sleep at a bingo hall, rich with the smell of old people and their cigarette smoke. Now my childhood is no longer valid as all you can smell at the Bingo today is plain old person and lambrini girls not appealing. Ive never smoked and tbh Im pretty glad that the smoking ban has come in. That being said Ive noticed that Pubs now smell of BO and wee! With a sense of nostalgia and thoughts of rich smoke in my mind I stumbled across a book called Smoke. Turns out that it has nothing to do with smoking apart from the fact that the lead character is named after his love of a cigar. Cant win them all
Smoke has been on the run for a number of years after he stole some money from some bad people and faked his own death. Unfortunately, for our aging antihero he was not quite as good at playing dead as he believed because three heavily armed men have caught up with him and are expecting the money back. Meanwhile, his young girlfriend Lola Bell has met up with some nasty people of her own. Lulled to a fake model shoot she may just have to use her kickboxing skills to escape. With millions of dollars on the line Smoke must get rid of the mob before they kill him or hurt Lola, can an aged bomb maker possibly pull this off?
Smoke is a wonderfully dark and evocative thriller that sits with the best in the US crime noir genre that I have come to love. Along with authors such as Robert Ferrigno and Michael Connelly, Patrick Quinlan now rests as a must read. All these authors produce books that are easy to pick up and read, but are written wonderfully, teasing you at each turn just to read one more chapter. As a debut it is even more impressive that Quinlan has managed to do such an impressive job.
The story itself is a very well developed chase narrative that brings together several plotlines as the book progresses. The way in which Quinlan sets up seemingly separate issues only for them to impact greatly on one another is a skill that not all authors can pull off. If the story had only followed Smoke and not the others I would still rate this book just nowhere near as highly. By adding twists and turns the book becomes much more than a simple linear plot and you can never predict what is going to happen next.
The quality of writing continues in the characterisations. I read a lot of LA based crime novels and the major problem that arises with a lot of them is that the leads are often very similar to one another. Smoked has two main characters that prove a refreshing change. Smoke himself is a past it bomber who wants nothing more to relax and forget his old life. Forcing a reluctant character to become the hero is an excellent way of allowing an author to create a link between reader and the text and it certainly works here. Smoke is very flawed, with a past that makes him deserve any violent fate he gets, but Quinlan makes it so that you sympathise with him and especially his relationship with relative innocent Lola.
Its Lola that is probably the strongest role in the book as she is character that can look after herself, but has some vulnerable qualities. As a man I found her character well developed, however, some woman may find her a bit too one dimensional and that she does not have a developed enough emotional core. Add to Smoke and Lola a list of enjoyable baddies, whose fates are not determined, and you have a great set of people to play with. Quinlan wonderfully plays the different types of personality off one another to heighten the tension and involve the reader.
Smoke for all intents and purposes should only be an average read. The storyline is hackneyed, the characters cliché, however this is far from the truth as these elements in the hands of a good author can prove to be great. Quinlan is able to create a thrilling and genuinely exciting story about two peoples struggle to remain alive over a short period. It is a clever book that takes old ideas and gives them a modern twist. I would recommend this book to any reader who has a love of American crime fiction as this is a top example of the genre.
Author: Patrick Quinlan
Price: amazon uk - £5.99
play.com - £5.99