English author Tom Leins is another new writer I’ve just added to my reading list. I came across his work by accident while scouring Amazon for noir and hard-boiled fiction. The preview of “Slug Bait: A Paignton Noir Mystery” had me intrigued so I plunked down 99 cents of my hard-earned cash and bought a Kindle copy. I wasn’t disappointed.
Traumatized and brutalized after a grisly encounter with a serial killer known as The Cartographer, “Slug Bait” finds cut-price private investigator Joe Rey licking his wounds at a decrepit caravan park on the cliff path high above Paignton. Violence has a way of finding Rey, however, and an altercation involving local amusement arcade tycoon Raymond Coody sees him dragged back into town – where his name is now on all of the wrong people’s lips. Rey’s reckless disregard for his own safety quickly wins Coody’s trust, but his new associate harbors some dark secrets, and things are about to get very bloody… – Amazon and Goodreads preview.
Subtle as a baseball bat to the back of the head, “Slug Bait” is a brisk, ferocious read with a tip of its Fedora to the old school masters of noir fiction. Consider this the illegitimate love child of Sam Spade and “The Purge.” In traditional noir style, Joe Rey – the chief protagonist – is an anti-hero, bargain-basement private investigator. However, Rey does very little actual detective work. His primary mode of employment is as paid muscle for all manner of seedy characters carrying out all manner of illicit activities on the grim-and-grimy backstreets and alleyways of Paignton, Devon, England.
Noir is dark crime fiction, for me, the darkest of the dark, and looking on as Joe Rey beats the holy hell out of a motley collection of criminals, killers and corrupt cops is an enjoyable way to spend a half-hour on a rainy afternoon. The location becomes a character in noir and Leins’ portrayal of Paignton brings this sleepy little English seaside town to life. Don’t expect sunshine, rainbows and unicorns though, this place is dark, brutal and unrelenting. If you’re of a delicate nature and easily offended, move along, this isn’t a cozy mystery to be made into a Hallmark movie.
“Slug Bait: A Paignton Noir Mystery” is action-packed crime fiction with the profanity and darkness meters cranked up to 12. Reading it made me feel so dirty, I needed a shower. This bad boy delivers on its promise and I’ll definitely be searching out other work from Tom Leins.
The Haunted Pen Rating: