Paul D. Brazill’s A Case of Noir has all the ingredients you’d expect from his writing – great lines, daft and very clever jokes, and some horrible goings-on. The protagonist, Luke Case, is a dodgy Englishman muckying European shores with his decadent presence and crackpot decisions.

He’s a man on the run from bad deeds in England, which the story only ever alludes to without going into great detail. Now he’s working as a writer under a fake name, in the hope he’ll never come across men on the lookout for him.

He dallies with prostitutes, a gangster’s wife and a pop singer who enjoys criminality. He gets on the wrong side of men who wear knuckledusters, and drinks copious amounts of booze to top tunes in dodgy bars.

It’s as thoroughly entertaining as everything else I’ve read by Brazill, but Luke Case has a strong melancholy wrapped around him that appeals. Brazill weaves a complex bunch of themes around his main character. Case’s vague past and present calamities highlight the depths he can reach, but his exile and how he has to hide behind a fake name seems to press down on the man until it squeezes his real identity from him. He finds it only in the bottom of a glass and to the sounds of great songs.

Despite his lack of grip on the events around him, I loved how he troops on to the next adventure, weary, but always up for finding a way.

A top read.

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