Book Review: Taming the Alien and The McDead, Ken BruenPosted: July 10, 2013
“What do you know about scenery? or beauty? Or any of the things that really make life worth living? You’re just an animal, coarse, muscled, barbaric. ”
“You keep right on talking honey. I like the way you run me down like that.” —Barrie Chase and Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear
Quotes like that one are scattered throughout the series. BTW, I’ve never watched the original Cape Fear but after reading that quote, I’m interested in seeing it now. Anyway, the last two books that make up THE WHITE TRILOGY – Taming the Alien and The McDead were fast reads. I finished them both in two days during hell week at work. The stories are described as London noir, set in the 1990’s that mainly follows DS Tom Brant and his partner, CS James Roberts as they follow-up on several threads that started in A White Arrest.
The main threads involves finding the killer of a police officer. Then there’s undercover work to flush out a rapist. There are hit men and kingpins along with a snitch or two. The author also delves into the personal lives of the police officers and shows the inner workings of the department along with its tension, politics and camaraderie.
The one character I failed to mention in my earlier review was WPC Falls. She’s black and has a major role. The one thing I love about this series thus far is the diversity of the characters. There’s also some humor and some action and a bit of violence but nothing that is overbearing. There are some surprises and some insight along with quotes from other writers and films from the 1940’s and 50’s. One other thing that I love is the author’s unconventional style and structure. I had no clue where the stories were going.
DS Brant is the lead character and he’s a memorable one. He’s a chain-smoking detective with a lot of hard edges. Rarely does anyone see his soft side. Ever. He has a reputation to keep up. When that soft side does show up, you find yourself willing to forgive him his lack of manners. Brant can be a bit over the top though and he says a lot of offensive things.
He grabbed a pint, drank half, belched, said: ‘I have no problem with women talking. Hell, it punctuates the time. What I hate is women thinking they’ve something to say.”
Brant is an anti-hero of sorts. He’s despised by the department brass. They consider him an embarrassment. He will supposedly never rise above the rank of sergeant. Meanwhile, he’s loyal to his partner, CS Roberts who is the only one allowed to call him by his first name, Tom. The two men often share their day in a pub. Both are aging detectives who have seen it and heard it all.
The series covered/mentioned a lot of issues in addressing bigotry, racism, AIDs and more. I already praised this trilogy with the first review. I’m just happy to report back that the three stories in total were entertaining reads. While Brant can be unlikable he can illicit different responses from me, like this:
All in all, if a reader is looking for a series that reads fast, doesn’t always feature characters in the best light and don’t mind the author’s genius poetic style which is pretty predominant, I think you’d love this series and this writer. A’s all around on this one. I bought the rest of the series. Note: I find it pretty hard to criticize Ken Bruen for anything but there is a bit of head-hopping and a few rare instances where you are kind of left wondering who is doing the talking. That’s it. A minor thing for me. This is all just my opinion of course. Go forth and read this for yourself if you have an interest in crime fiction.
UP NEXT: My first Joseph Wambaugh novel, The New Centurions. I love cop books written by ex-cops.
Further Reading: A White Arrest (first book in the White Trilogy)