Russell James has been named “the Godfather of Noir” by Ian Rankin. Russell writes crime novels - about criminals and victims, not the cozy procedural or whodunnit. He is the editor of Great British Fictional Detectives.
The Robin Llywelyn trilogy drifts to its conclusion here, in this amiable if aimless tale in which our feckless hero wakes up chained to the bed in a hospice, saddled with two popular clichés from yesteryear – he is an amnesiac and has two months left to live. (He has cancer. No, really.) He has also, it appears, done something very wrong, certainly criminal and possibly homicidal. Though, of course, he can’t remember.
A strong beginning, you might think, but the tone is flat and the tale lacks tension. It isn’t until page 77 (quarter way through) that he comes across his first corpse or, indeed, anything to suggest that this is a crime book – and, frankly, that’s too long a wait. I know this is a ‘comic’ book (or at least, it’s pitched as such by the publisher) but a comedy, too, needs pace. I may be doing Lewis a disfavour but he seems to have lost interest in his hero (hence his unambiguous killing-off) and the book is just a final countdown to his demise.