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Preston Lang’s The Carrier is a fine piece of noir about desperation, loneliness, and sniffing opportunities which lead to hell. Cyril is a highly respected carrier for a gangster called Top. He’s not greedy, so he never skims the drugs or money he transports across the US, so many people always ask for him. He looks ordinary, acts ordinary, doesn’t carry a weapon, and cops who stop him wave him away because he’s so decent.

As things do in crime fiction, it all goes wrong. Somebody finds out about his pickup and the route he’s about to take and holds him up, making the lives of everybody involved spiral out of control.

There are nice contrasts in characters. Cyril is the soft, decent chap pulled into the life by his extremely dodgy brother, who has only recently started to cool down from wanting to beat everybody to a pulp. Including Cyril. Marcus is the big dope hopelessly in love with his disinterested woman, looking for a cash hoard so he can keep her, unwilling to admit that she’ll leave him when something better comes along. Marcus’ partner in crime is Danny, a sex offender who cannot understand his deeper, tender feelings. Willow and Inez are the women, both red in tooth and claw, ball-busters of the highest calibre. But only one will let feelings confuse her original intention.

The Carrier goes down dark places, digging into family jealousy and frustration, one-sided love, and how easy money infects a conscience and turns morality into a pulpy mush. I really enjoyed it.

However, I think I’d have liked to have followed Duane further, exploring his descent into isolation, drugs, and his antagonism towards Cyril. Cyril is the angel of the piece, but like in Oliver Twist, I’d have liked more Artful Dodger than Oliver.

Overall, a fun and dark ride.