Brooke, Anne - 'Maloney's Law'
There's an odd little publishing trend where straight women write what's become known as M/M fiction. I won't call it gay fiction, because the books are generally more concerned with the hunky hero getting his end away with a hot bloke every 20 pages or so, and there's absolutely no effort by the writer in most cases to attempt to explore the gay experience outside of what the main character does in bed.
British writer Anne Brooke is one of the M/M crowd, but her crime novel MALONEY'S LAW is a strange beast. Its central character is Paul Maloney, a London PI, who's called on by a successful businessman to do some digging into an Egyptian company. Except the bloke is a former lover of his - married, with children - and the company doesn't like nosy investigators.
The plot isn't bad, but in many ways it's of secondary importance behind Paul's muddled life and his back history. To be fair to Brooke there aren't countless sexual encounters for our hero, but there's not enough depth to make him a sympathetic or particularly likeable character.
And after a while it gets rather tiresome to see the only gay men in the book constantly portrayed as screwed-up closet cases who hang around toilets for sex or cheat on their wives. I'm all for flawed characters, whatever their sexual orientation, but there simply aren't enough characters in this book to provide variation or to make the reader care very much about them.
The action consists of fairly unlikely accounts of derring-do in two countries. And then it grinds to a halt halfway through the book as Paul's life is ripped apart by one horrific scene. After that the book loses its way to some extent.
It's not often I find myself saying this, but MALONEY'S LAW would work better as a longer book. Ken Bruen may be able to write short, but not many other writers can. And it needs a stronger editor at the helm. That way Brooke, who can clearly write competently, could give plot and characterisation the attention they deserve. And some tough editing would have cleared away the traces of what comes across as book group writing - far too many adjectives and a running gag driven into the ground (after about the sixth time of Paul telling us that such-and-such an incident had happened after x years, y days and z hours, I was grinding my teeth!)
Sharon Wheeler, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.