Here is a series debut I highlighted as one I wanted to read this year and a title which has appeared on at least a couple of forthcoming publications recommended reads lists. Lagos born trainee London solicitor Amen Alonge has written a very commercial novel which may attract those who do not regularly read fiction. It’s a day in the life of a young black man known only as “Pretty Boy” by some other characters who arrives back in London with a clear desire for revenge but who, by accepting a piece of jewellery as part payment for a debt provokes a lot of unforeseen circumstances.
It’s violent, it’s brash and unsentimental and both visually and aurally strong, as the author soundtracks many scenes by mentioning what music is being listened to. It is branded well, especially with regards to cars and weaponry and at times is gripping and always involving.
It’s not easy to write violence and Alonge does a good job focusing on the details leading up to an attack and then dispatching characters quickly. A couple of scenes are overwritten which gives a cartoonish quality and that is one of the inherent dangers of reading such scenes as compared to watching them on-screen.
It is hard to get into the mindset of these characters which can make them seem inconsistent. The author uses a mixture of first-person narrative from “Pretty Boy” (which is strong) and a third person narrative which at times I felt slightly confusing. There is a need to give the main character a back story which features mainly in a chunk in the last quarter of the book but I don’t know whether it helped in fully fleshing him out.
Indeed, this may not matter as this is Book 1 of a projected series so there is plenty of time for “Pretty Boy” to grow as a character. There is a freshness to this which I find invigorating but I don’t think the comparisons I’d seen to “The Wire” US TV series are helpful as that is one of TV’s modern greats and a masterclass in writing and crafting a narrative and these comparisons may have built up expectations for me which I do not feel were fully delivered.
Amen Alonge is a vibrant new voice in crime fiction and I would be interested to see where he goes with this character next.
A Good Day To Die is published by Quercus on 17th February 2022. Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.