DEAD BIRDS by John Milne


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Milne, author of gritty but pretentious portraits of working-class Britishers (Tyro, London Fields), offers a modest, conventional mystery this time--with a hard-boiled shamus (London-style) up against the ruthless machinations of a clever villain. Narrator-hero Jimmy Jenner--an ex-cop with one artificial leg (thanks to a terrorist bomb)--is hired by fight manager George Duncan to be chauffeur/bodyguard for his with Alison, a comely blonde. But Jimmy smells something fishy going on, quits the assignment, and is soon being quizzed by the police--because Alison Duncan has been found horribly murdered, her face reduced to pulp. Whodunit? Was it Duncan's arch-rival in the boxing world, a mobster called Wilkins (Mrs. Duncan's previous sugar daddy)? Or was it Duncan himself--who has profited from the life insurance on Mrs. D.? Or is is possible that the dead body is not Alison Duncan's at all. . .but that of a hapless stand-in? Jimmy becomes convinced that the real Alison (very much alive) is the culprit--especially when George Duncan is found dead, an apparent Suicide, but with all his cash (a small fortune) missing. And he remains obsessed with the case, even while getting married and moving to Spain--until fate and determination bring him face-to-face with the killers in a nautical showdown near Gibraltar. Solid, if unexciting, work in the sardonic-gumshoe mode--with grimily convincing backgrounds, vividly unlovely characters, and a morsel of scenic action at the close.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking