Once a Crooked Man

Written by David McCallum

Review written by Ali Karim

Ali Karim was a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.

Once a Crooked Man
Sandstone Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: January 7 2016

Publication of this debut novel by actor David McCallum is a huge coup for Sandstone Press, and also a delight for readers of the chase thriller. It is filled with an electric array of protagonists and antagonists; for little is as it seems for our hero, Harry Murphy.

In New York, struggling actor Murphy overhears a conversation from the mysterious Bruschetti crime family who are planning on closing the loop on some loose ends, with murder in mind. Murphy decides in a thespian turn, to warn the target, the mysterious Villiers of the intentions of the Bruschetti brothers, Enzo, Sal and Max; and as the Bard once said ‘thereby hangs a tale’, one that takes Harry Murphy across the Atlantic, with his warning, with his mission.

Filled with misdirection and misadventure, Harry Murphy finds himself embroiled in the machinations of the Mob, and what appears as investigations by the intelligence community, and a whole lot of trouble. Written with an enthusiastic and good natured style, one cannot but picture McCallum himself as Harry Murphy, with a tip of the hat to the caper novels and films of the past.

The narrative is striated with a dry wit that helps the reader overlook some of the more surreal events that follow Murphy’s miss-adventures. Reminiscent of Buchan’s The Thirty-nine Steps, or Hitchcock’s North-By-Northwest or one of Westlake’s Dortmunder novels, the pace is relentless, but with a knowing style, and one that is as engaging as it is furious. Naturally there is romance against this gonzo-chase backdrop, and soon Murphy finds the direction he was looking for, as all heads turn as the hunt goes by, including Lizzie Carswell, a special agent, but who is she really working for?

The writing style makes one query why McCallum hadn’t penned a crime novel before, for like The Man from U.N.C.L.E character Ilya Kuryakin, he is as resourceful as a writer, as he is an actor. I feel that it won’t be long before another crime thriller will be forthcoming, highly recommended and very different, where the genre is filled with tales of Noir, we have this light and highly energetic tale, that makes one smile while we turn the pages with impatience, as well as ruminating about the significance of coincidence in our lives.

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