Batford Book 2 is a fast, exciting, tense slice of London noir. Thrilling from the off, engaging throughout and building to an unexpected finale.
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We first met Sam Batford in Rubicon last year (before I started this blog so I have no review to plug, but the book is available directly from Fahrenheit). Rubicon was a dark, grimy noir gem that took our anti-hero Sam Batford around the greyest parts of Britain. A brief warning, Stoned Love does to some extent assume you have read Rubicon and whilst you can enjoy this book solo, if you haven’t already I would strongly recommend you read Rubicon first (If you are so inclined, you can order a set of both paperbacks here and save 20%).
Stoned Loves takes us deep in to the depths of a London underworld where money and violence talk. Our story this time round follows Batford as he is tasked with infiltrating a London drug running operation where a huge deal is believed to be in the offing, creating an opportunity for the police to take down the villain of the piece, Razor. Ian Patrick is a former police officer and his love of the work shines through, as does his acceptance that its not a perfect world rather one in which opportunities for corruption abound. There are also many example of jobs worthiness that I think most will recognise and share a wry smile over. What really comes through when talking about the job though, is his sheer horror at the level of cuts our law enforcement have had to handle in the UK in recent years and the impact this is having. Although Batford has enemies within and without the force in Stoned Love, the most compelling element of those within is that everyone is ultimately trying to get the job done. They just don’t necessarily see eye to eye on how that should be achieved. A great compassion for our service people comes through with a clear view that we should be supporting them in this country, praising their successes not hounding their failures against almost incomprehensible pressures.
The tones of the classic anti-hero reminiscent of the greats Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins make a welcome return. Rubicon was an assured debut; Stoned Love is a step up. This is writing from an author with the confidence of success under his belt, there is an almost casual nature to the storytelling as Ian Patrick is clearly at home in the world he has created. There is no ‘difficult second album’ syndrome here. If anything the storytelling is tighter and slicker than before, and the characters more defined. Even those whom we haven’t met before. Told using a mixed media approach not often seen in noir writing, we have a mix of first person narrative, interview transcripts and diary entries to drive the story. Taking a different approach to telling the aspects not from Batfords point of view is inspired and adds an extra dimension to the overall feel of the novel.
Stoned Love makes a thrilling second entry in the Batford series, taking the promise of the first and settling it into an assured story that really builds Batford world. We learn a little more, but only a little more about our anti-hero and what drives him. Intrigue is maintained and I for one am looking forward to the third entry in what I hope will be a long running series.