Set in the decadent and exuberant world of London’s seedy underbelly, you’re thrown head first into a collision of art, politics, prostitution, the beat generation and race riots. Faced with a brutal melee of characters including bent coppers, racist teddy boys, struggling artists, fledgling fashion designers, rich lords and grubby hookers, this bygone London is brought to life with skill and passion, offering a tantalizing glimpse into a dangerous but exciting world.
Centred around Jack the Stripper murders in the infamous Ladbroke Grove area, the narrative is split between two clear cut characters, each cleverly defined by pace, tone and storyline. Detective Pete Bradley and Stella (art student turned fashion designer), offer unique perspectives of lost London and its possible horrors as the murder story unfolds. Unsworth handles this to perfection, setting a standard that will be difficult to match.
An intriguing addition to the plot is the supernatural element. Personally, I like it. It gives an edge and complements the dark sexual element that coarses through the novel. Occult is difficult to write well, but I think Unsworth delivers it with originality.
With Bad Penny Blues, you won’t find subtlety but you will get drama, passion, intrigue and just enough clues with a twist at the end. Don’t get too cocky with this book – you’ll think you’ve figured it out, but you’ll only be partially right.
Any Cop?: Noir fiction is difficult to find and this steps outside the boundaries just enough. It’s raised the bar for writers of this genre. Give the perfect mix of vibrancy, intrigue and madness a go.