An exciting and gritty thriller. Fast paced writing and compelling characters. An explosive finale. What more could you want?
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A great friend of Fahrenheit, Ian has written two books in his Sam Batford series for them with a third due later this year. How the Wired Weep is his first standalone novel, written from two perspectives on either side of the law in a grittily realised pre-Olympic London. On one side we have a police officer, on the other side his informant. I always enjoy a story with a degree of moral ambiguity and this book has it in spades.
Our two protagonists are given equal weight, this is neither ones story with a secondary character, they are both integral and the way Ian writes drives that home. He gives them both their own unique voices and writes with such realism, that if you didn’t know he spent years in this world before reading the book – it’ll be clear afterwards. Ian is an ex-police officer and brings that experience to the table in all of his work.
Ed is our copper, trying to balance a difficult home life with the 24hr demands of his job. He’s a handler, looking after informants and making sure that their tips are acted on. Ben is our informant, raised on the London streets, still young but still served time. His life is one most of us wouldn’t want, but Ben won’t apologise for it, or for his actions. In his view he is taking the world as he sees it and trying to make his way in a society that frankly couldn’t give a flying fuck about him.
Our story follows escalating tensions on a London estate and the power struggles that ensue, Ed is trying to stop a war. Ben is playing both sides in the hopes of winning a piece of the pie for himself. Despite some of the criminal activities that Ben is involved in, he’s a difficult character to dislike. He’s had a tough life and is simply playing that hand that he’s been dealt, Ben isn’t operating in a morality that most of us are familiar with, but it’s a morality none the less. In a lot of ways he is living his life more honestly than Ed.
Ed is also damaged goods to some extent, but for different reasons. He is struggling with a wife at home desperate to have children and between them they are unable to conceive. Ed sees this as a personal failing and it appears to me as though he feels it questions his masculinity and therefore, he throws himself into his work. At times more aggressively than may be needed, one sequence with Ben is particularly violent and even his partner senses that something is wrong. Touching on the issue of toxic masculinity and the dangers it can present all wrapped in a compelling story.
Ian’s writing in this story has a light touch, and although How The Wired Weep is in the same broad vein as the Batford stories, it most definitely has its own voice and its own point of view. The pacing is well balanced, allowing you to get to know these characters in more intimate scenes, so that you care about them in the more frenetic sequences that abound throughout the book. Ian gives his characters the space to grow that they need for the finale to have the emotional resonance to be memorable. And that finale is something else, exciting and tense. The kind of thing that the very best thrillers build towards.
Stepping away from your comfort zone is a brave and oftentimes daunting thing to do, fraught with risks too as a writer. In How The Wired Weep, Ian pulls this off with aplomb and further affirms his talent as a writer and his love of crime fiction.