A blog by Nikki Dudley about the gaps in everyday life...


Saturday, 19 May 2012

He Died With His Eyes Open (Factory 1) by Derek Raymond - REVIEW

I was very excited to read the first instalment of Raymond’s Factory series and I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the most thrilling and satisfying reads I have had for a while.

The Factory series is set in Thatcher’s London, with a nameless sergeant from the Unexplained Deaths department of the London police as the protagonist. In the first page, we meet the murder victim, Charles Staniland, a tragic character who leaves behind recorded cassettes of his thoughts and a whole lot of mystery. In time, the Sergeant realises the cassettes are more important than he first thought, providing key information to help him identify the culprits.

The city is represented as gritty and desperate, hinting at the employment problems of the 1980s and a ruthless pursuit of self-interest. In turn, the grittiness is also present in the array of characters – for example Harvey Fenton, the brute who apparently only ‘mocked’ Staniland; Barbara, Staniland’s girlfriend who drove him to distraction with her cruelty; Staniland’s stepson, Eric who is addicted to hard drugs; and many more who are similarly loathsome and pathetic.

Despite all of this, the nameless Sergeant remains focussed, if not a bit obsessed with the case. The dialogue is sharp and witty, especially of the Sergeant. Sometimes it did seem like he had a joke for every occasion but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Also, for someone who isn’t familiar with the East End London slang, it might be a little difficult to always understand what the characters are actually saying, but it doesn’t take a genius to do the translation.

Overall, it was a thrilling read. The culprits weren’t exactly shocking but the investigation itself was always absorbing. The twists and turns were accomplished through believable and exciting methods. I even enjoyed the presence of the retro piece of technology, cassettes, as a way to impart information and give more of a sense of who Staniland was. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed being in the company of the nameless Sergeant and will certainly be getting my hands on the next Factory book in the series (The Devil’s Home on Leave).

Much recommended. A noir novel with a no-nonsense investigator who can generate a laugh, plus the added twist of the grittiness of 1980’s London. What more could you ask for?  

THANKS TO... Mike Lipkin from Noir Journal for the contact, Melville House Publishers for providing a review copy. 

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