When we Americans pick up a British mystery or police novel, we generally expect something a tad more refined than our own domestic product. Great Britain, after all, is a society that takes pride in being disarmed, in not having either criminals or cops running around the streets with guns.
Forget all that when you pick up London Large: Blood On the Streets, by the writing team of brothers G. and R. Robson.
Harry “H” Hawkins is a London police detective, and a proud dinosaur. He has no time for sociological policing, and little comprehension of online resources. (He leaves such matters to his partner, a young ethnic Indian woman named Amisha, whose talents he has gradually learned to appreciate.)
But for H, policing is still mostly a matter of wearing out shoe leather, barging in on suspects unannounced, physically threatening them when necessary, and occasionally jogging their memories with a good beating.
H is a veteran of the Falklands War and suffers from PTSD, which he self-medicates with alcohol.
When he’s called to the scene of the murder of two upper class women in fashionable St. James Park, he can barely keep himself together. One of the victims is the wife of his best friend, Ronnie, who saved his life in the war and is now a successful businessman. The brass won’t let him work the case, but that means nothing to H. Not even suspension from the force will keep him from doing whatever it takes to identify the killer and stop a vicious and perverted conspiracy at the highest level. In the end it will be just him and Ronnie at war again, and woe to anyone foolish enough to stand in their way.
The purpose of the London Large series (this is the first volume of it) would seem to be to show us Americans that the English can write books as violent and bloody as ours. The body count is certainly all you could ask in a Jack Reacher or Mitch Rapp novel, and H seems to have little trouble getting his hands on all the firearms he wants, even if he has to go to illegal sources. Nor is he hesitant to use them.
For me, however, the book was kind of ham-fisted. The writing was often clumsy, and the violence seemed to be the product of people who don’t understand weapons very well – in one scene, for instance, a thrown knife pierces someone’s forehead – I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.
On the other hand, character development was surprisingly good – certain characters exhibited unexpected strengths, something I always like in a story.
All in all, though, I found London Large: Blood On the Streets a little much. Over-violent, awkwardly written, and – oh yes – lots of profanity.