Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 19, 2011


Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice by Ken Bruen

I don't know if any book by Ken Bruen should be called "forgotten", but this short, sharp jab to the kidneys is one of his lesser-known ones.

     Cooper is a South Londoner who has served time for GBH (grievious bodily harm).  He survived in prison only with the help of a fellow prisoner, a wild Irisher known as "Doc", who had taken Cooper under his wing.  After being released from prison, Cooper continued to hang out with Doc, knowing that he owes Doc a great debt.

     Then came the day that \Doc decided he wanted to rob a bank -- a spur of the moment decision.  Cooper agrees to go along.  It was a clumsy, albeit successful, robbery and Cooper discovered an almost sexual excitement in the act.  Cooper was hooked and he and Doc began a long run of bank robberies.  They became more cautious, though, and soon knew they had to find a way to launder the money.

     They decided on a car repo business to launder the money.  What they didn't count on was being successful at it.  The  business grew fast.  They hired a shady accountant who also had contacts within a number of banks.  Cooper and Doc used this inside information to rob those banks.

     Cooper spends the night with Cassie, a shoplifter with a poor grip on reality.  Cassie steals money and a gun from Cooper but also becomes fixated with him, stalking him and showing up at inconvenient times.  Cassie has unilaterally decided Cooper will go to Morocco to rescue her daughter whom she believes to have been kidnapped.  Cooper wants nothing to do with Cassie or her delusions.

     Meanwhile, Doc's common-law wife has been killed falling under a train.  Cooper suspects that Cassie may have pushed her. 

     Things begin to unravel quickly.  The police suspect the two for the bank robberies.  Doc is beginning to get unhinged.  He has gambled away all his money and stolen from their repossession company which is now going bankrupt.  He has no money to pay for his wife's expensive funeral, or his teen-age daughter's posh boarding school.  On top of that, he has promised to fund an extension to the local church building in memory of his wife.  Even though he knows it's a very bad idea, Cooper agrees to join Doc in another robbery.

     With all their previous jobs, Cooper and Doc had carried guns to flash around although they never fired a shot.  This time, though, Doc becomes further unhinged and shoots a girl's face off.  As they are leaving, a third figure shows up, masked and bearing guns.  It's Cassie; she has gone completely over the edge.  She shoots Doc and aims at Cooper.

     Cooper manages to escape and discovers that Cassie got away clean.  The police are looking for him for the robbery, the death of the girl, and the shooting of Doc.

     Bruen tells a nasty tale of violence and despair.  He writes with a poetic mania, crafting and polishing in a way that leaves no unnecessary words.  He is the current master of Irish bleak and dark noir and Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice is a fast-paced, careening ride to the nether parts of the human soul.

     Ken Bruen is the real thing.  I highly recommend this book.


     For more Forgotten Books, visit Patti Abbott's blog, Pattinase.

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