LAYER CAKE by J.J. Connolly


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Coke dealer looking for easy way out of the criminal life—difficult, you say?

As one would expect of a book that’s already been filmed in London (to be released here in fall 2004) by a producer of the cinematic lad’s bible, Lock, Stick, and Two Smoking Barrels, British author Connolly’s first novel is a cool and sinuous crime story, smothered in street jargon and suffused with an abiding love of all that’s illegal. The unnamed narrator is a young London dealer who has made himself a pretty piece of change by keeping out of the street muck and turf battles: “I try and turn away people who are messy, who are noisy, who’ll get us nicked big time. . . People who are neat and tidy like ourselves we can do business with.” Surprisingly, Connolly isn’t very interested in jumping right into the meat of his story, but, instead, spends a good deal of time simply listening in as the dealer talks about his business, the ways he maneuvers through London’s underground without getting pinched. Even when the plot gets ratcheted up—the dealer is called to a summit meeting at a posh restaurant with his boss, Big Jim, who wants him to locate a friend’s missing daughter—the focus is still more on the telling of stories than on a blow-by-blow of who-did-what. There’s rarely a moment here when the characters, a garrulous lot to be sure, won’t take a dozen or so pages to relate some tale about a mate of theirs and some ruckus he was involved in; fortunately, though, Connolly knows how to spin a good yarn, so this way of proceeding is never a problem. There’s more than a little fancifulness here, regardless of how spot-on the argot or knowledge of the vicissitudes of the cocaine game might be. The book still has a whiff of the Tarantino fan about it—meaning that it’s an addictive read, for better or for worse.

A walloping debut that could well presage a wave of Brit crime lit heading for these shores.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8021-4168-4
Page count: 344pp
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2004


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