What a fabulous novella this is. The thing has sat on the list for so long I almost forgot about it, but I’m glad I finally delved in. Jason Dean is an enforcer for a local shit-stain, who forces him to do stuff which tears at his core. Ah, who wants to sympathise with a hitman, no matter his pain? Well, you’ll sympathise with this one.

Bullied by a Neanderthal father, Dean has grown up damaged. Nevertheless, through all the misery and ignorance he has studied classic literature and music by himself and developed a rich internal life, bolstered by love for his daughter.

The novel starts with his dread for the morning meeting with his boss, Micky. His wife, beside him in bed this day, despises him. He grinds his way to the meeting and has a fantastic argument about the merits of Shostakovich and Wagner, and then we dread, along with Dean, his tasks for the day – a collection of debt and a murder which needs seeing to.

Jason does as he’s told, but the clouds are thickening, especially as the debt he collects is from a veteran alone without his family. As he does his criminal duty, his learning pops and fizzles within, trying to bolster his moral code as he works at the only skill-set he knows.

I ploughed through this. It’s not a long book. It shouldnt take more than a couple of days to get through, but it will stay in your head for days and weeks. Dean’s philosophising is so unpretentious – it all comes out in his local, unschooled dialect – that it has greater impact. Here’s a man from a broken family, who lives on a broken housing estate, trying to break out from his past. His daughter, and the longing for the past he had with his wife, hit home hard. He wants to do the right thing. He doesn’t want to murder and collect debts from old people with medals they might have to sell to stay above water. He wants a life not ruled by the soulless and ignorant. When the book ends you’re left upset for a man you ought to despise.

A top, top read.

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