Ken (Bruen) likes Karin (Fossum)
Bruen being Bruen, though, his killer is far funnier than Thompson's or anyone else's. Here he is in his own words:
I'm not going to get caught. I'm due for another kill on Friday, a woman this time, keep the balance. The reason I won't get caught is not just cos I'm smart but I have an edge.and
I watch CSI.
Kids? Would I kill a kid? No way, José. Not unless he was in a boy band.and
Ever see that profile shine they pedal[sic]? Me now, they'd
typically pin as:
early thirties (wrong)
Narcissistic (well okay, I'll
give them that)
Low-paying job (nope)
Quiet (I'm a party animal).
In addition to the Thompson (and Cornell Woolrich, Charles Willeford and Raymond Chandler) reading killer, the loud, violent, manipulative, bribe-taking but oddly upright Sergeant Brant is back, not just reading Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels, but this time trying to write one himself. So, with both sides of the law -- London killer and London cops -- immersed in pop culture, the chapter headings comment on and reflect the novel's action, rather than standing outside it, awkward and self-indulgent, the way they sometimes do.
The authors Bruen chooses for his epigraphs and headings are no surprise, for the most part: Thompson, Willeford and Elmore Leonard, to name three. One, however, was unexpected, a nod from an author of violent, hysterically funny hard-boiled books to one of quieter psychological crime novels: Karin Fossum. Chapter 16 is preceded by this, from Fossum's He Who Fears the Wolf:
"The only interesting people in the world are the losers," she said. "Or rather, those we call losers. Every type of deviation contains an element of rebellion. And I've never been able to understand a lack of rebelliousness."By the way, the killer in Calibre has an unusual set of targets: He murders people who have bad manners.
Bruen, of course, may be the hottest and most prolific crime novelist in the world, but critical attention focuses mostly on his Jack Taylor novels or his standalones. The Brant or Brant and Roberts books, of which Calibre is the sixth, with a seventh due this year, deserve to be better known. Sure, it's easy to see Bruen's inspiration; he doesn't bother hiding it. It's McBain's 87th Precinct books. But he puts his family of officers through changes McBain never set down on paper. There has simply never been anything else like this violent, brawling, drinking, cocaine-snorting -- and side-splittingly funny -- gang in crime fiction.
Read about the Brant novels on Bruen's Web site here. I predict that if these novels ever gain the attention they deserve, some adventurous theater producer will find them ripe for the funniest, most violent Broadway crime musical ever.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007