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Cregan Sean - 'The Levels'
Paperback: 352 pages (Aug. 2010) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 0755371143

THE LEVELS is the first book released under the Sean Cregan name by author John Rickards. The Levels of the title refers to an abandoned housing project on the outskirts of Newport City, a city on the US East Coast which is inhabited by feral gangs led by drug dealer Sorrow.

When ex-CIA agent Nate Turner returns home from a job, he finds a man murdered on his doorstep and the police seem to be confirming Nate as the victim. As he can't understand why he hasn't been correctly identified, Nate sets off into the Levels to find out what is going on. Nate meets a 14-year-old girl Ghost, who as a Fury, is one of Sorrow's drug addicted assassins who is looking for a way out of the Levels and back to a normal life.

Kate Friedman is an ex-Newport City Police Department officer kicked out of the force after her home was raided and her boyfriend's drug dealing was discovered. Kate is trying to track down what happened to her ex-boyfriend by visiting a bar in the Levels when she is savagely attacked. She is picked up by White and his team who work for Sirius (a drug company producing drugs for use in warfare). Kate is told that she has had a lucky escape from The Beast a man who tears his victims apart in a series of revenge attacks on Sirius. She has however been bitten by The Beast and the Sirius black ops team must find The Beast to understand how he has survived being infected by the latest Sirius drug, to enable an antidote to be produced for Kate.

Ghost helps Nate as he tries to find out what happened to Charlie a contact of his who lives in the Levels. As they start asking around, they get attacked by a military gang who seem to keeping watch on some of the bars.

Kate is working with White and his team as they try to hunt down the Beast, but he seems to move about through The Tunnels (old freight tunnels that run beneath the Levels. When she meets up with Nate and Ghost, they are able to combine their efforts.

Justice is meted out in the the Levels by the Tower (where Sorrow and his gang live) after people add names to "The Book". If a crime is accurately reported, the miscreant is killed, if the crime is false then the person reporting the crime is killed.

Will Kate find The Beast, will Nate find out what is going on in the Levels and will Ghost be able to escape from Sorrow and his gangs?

THE LEVELS is an urban gothic thriller that I must admit I found hard to read. The book is very well written and the characters are well presented. The descriptions describe the Levels in all of their bleak despair and it makes you realise the depths people can descend to if required or if there is no choice available.

Paul Blackburn, Scotland
August 2010

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/08/2010 11:02