Trouble Man is Benn’s third novel, continuing the story of hardman/gangster Harry Bane [we reviewed his debut, The Doll Princess back in 2012 – Ed.). The latest instalment sees the nightclub manager tumble into a murky Manchester underworld after discovering a tortured young woman while out on a morning run. As he tries to help her, Bane finds himself and those he cares about in danger, and it seems the only way out is an to resort to his own violent and torturous techniques. It’s a brutal novel, with violence on every page, but if you can stand your guts, your gore, and your gratuity, it is not a novel without merit. It’s an extremely well-paced piece of writing, and the relentlessness of the action will keep almost any reader turning the page. There are also some obvious comparisons with the early work of David Peace, and if Benn can follow a similar career arc then there may be better to come.
For all the positives in the pacing, the prose, and the dialogue, however, Trouble Man is lacking heavily in plausibility. With more fights than a Danny Dyer film, and more car crashes than a 24-hour stint on Grand Theft Auto, it gets increasingly hard to believe that Bane is still standing, let alone fighting off murderous villains and angry gangsters on an hourly basis. And as the narrative progresses, the plot becomes reliant on coincidence and fortunate timing, rather than anything approaching reality. The pacing is enough to carry you through, though, and in a time where TV programs like 24 are so popular, plausibility might not be the most important thing to a large proportion of readers.
Any Cop?: Despite the negatives, Benn’s third novel is certainly entertaining. As part of the crime genre, it may be no more implausible than many of its counterparts. It’s just a shame that a novel so involving often brings attention to its artifice by overstretching reality.