Wednesday 26 March 2008

A Wee Review - BLOODSTORM by Sam Millar

If you haven’t heard about Sam Millar’s new novel, BLOODSTORM, where the hell have you been? Sam’s currently working hard to get word out there and it’s paying off. His latest offering has received multiple positive reviews, and has been chosen by Eason’s and the Belfast Telegraph as the book to mark the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. And now I’m reviewing it! Impressive, yeah? Seriously though, I predict it’ll be a big year for Sam and his writing.

BLOODSTORM is a bleak aul Belfast crime yarn. We follow a PI by the name of Karl Kane who gets himself caught up in a disturbing string of murders after taking on a seemingly simple and well paid case. Kane’s connections to the underbelly of modern Belfast provide him with a gateway into the case, but it’s through these same connections that he becomes so tangled up in the death and brutality that carries him to the stomach-churning denouement.

The back cover claims that the novel is leavened by humour, and I agree with that to a certain degree. But I warn you not to let this lull you into a false sense of security. This is a dark and gritty world Millar has created. As early as the opening paragraphs of the prologue you’re punched in the gut and the “visceral violence” continues to work the body throughout. The squeamish and faint-hearted need to step away from this book. It’ll leave a lot of lasting impressions, and even though the NI characteristic of laughing in the face of adversity shines through, I (a seasoned horror-connoisseur) found some of it pretty hardcore. The good news is that it’s not the pornographic blend of splatter-violence that the talentless rely on. Nope, Mr Millar is kind enough to let our imagination do most of the work in that department.

In places, I found the writing and dialogue came across a little formal, especially when compared to some of his real down-and-dirty prose. For example, “Varicose veins of rust webbed the spokes of the (wheelchair) wheels. Held lazily in his hand was a half-bottle of cheap wine. Half empty, half full, depending on Chris’s mood.” The book could maybe do with a tighter edit to bring it all up to this smooth-reading standard. But that's just me being fussy.

I enjoyed Mr Millar’s crisp and unrelenting style. He stays true to the characters at all times. Each player reacts exactly as they should in each situation. There are no unlikely redemptions. In fact, poor aul Karl Kane seems to find himself sinking lower into damnation with each plot turn. And most impressive is the story’s structure and how Millar chooses to reveal the final twists, catching the reader with a few surprises right up to the epilogue. So stay alert right up to the end, champ. There’s always one more body-shot coming.

So what’s in the future for Karl Kane? Well, in a recent interview with Crime Scene NI, Sam Millar revealed that he is currently working on two follow-ups to BLOODSTORM -- The Dark Place and Searching For The Dead. Sign me up for those. I want to know what happens next to our Karl.

Gerard Brennan

Here’s what some other critics have said about BLOODSTORM...

“Millar is rapidly building a reputation for pacy thrillers in the crime noir genre... He keeps the action rolling from the get-go with a rapid expanding plot that quickly head-butts the reader into submission. Those looking for a comfortable read should be warned... Even Sam Spade would be shocked at some of the company Karl Kane keeps and the situations he finds himself in.”

Irish Independent

“Millar’s ability to tap into the dark recesses of the human mind is brilliantly constructed, page after nerve shattering page... With Bloodstorm and Karl Kane, Millar has given us his best work since On The Brinks and The Redemption Factory. Highly recommended.”

Irish News

“Gripping and arrestingly violent, Bloodstorm is a well-written thriller with its share of disturbing insights into the dark side of the human psyche.”

Irish Mail on Sunday

“Millar whips up a storm in this brilliant, fast paced thriller. Gritty and gripping, Bloodstorm, is a real page-turner – and indeed a chapter-turner. Anti-hero Karl Kane, is the most original private investigator to grace a book, in years.”

Andersonstown News

“Bloodstorm is a powerful, relentless page-turner of a book, leaving you gasping for more…”

BBC Radio Ulster

“Bloodstorm is powerful and unsettling writing, that seeps into your bones like Belfast rain... Recommended reading by the NI Tourist Board this is not, but as a straight-talking crime thriller, it’s at the top...”

Shelley Marsden, The Irish World, London

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