Thursday, 21 February 2013

#Review - Big Deal V2: Lesson In Betrayal

The boys are back in mad, manic and mysterious as ever.

I love these books. I really do. They're old-fashioned British farce, comedy crime capers of the first order, featuring a cast of crazy crooks you can't help but love.

First, Judas MacGregor. Who doesn't love Jude - the flamboyant bisexual sex-addicted ex-best-friend of mob heir apparent Fergus Campbell. He's a cad and a player and a total bastard, but somehow it's okay. He's honest, for a start. Plus his heart is in the right place. There is honour among thieves, not least between Jude and Vinny, the street kid he took under his wing and got off drugs.

And Vinny is just adorable. If only Jude would open his eyes and see the beautiful young man standing staunchly by his side!

Then there's Fergus. Married to the psychotic Hugo, to whom he owes his life, but falling deeper and deeper in love with Mikhail, the Polish cross-dressing local brothel-keeper. Fergus is undoubtedly a thug of the first order. He treats Hugo shamefully, belittling and beating him at every opportunity. And yet he's so careful with Mika, so tender. None of these guys are straightforward; they all have shades of light and dark.

Hugo himself, for instance. Clearly, he's unhinged. In fact, he's downright insane. But there's something pitiful about him too. He's so small - fragile - and so painfully in love with Fergus.

Lesson In Betrayal opens in the immediate aftermath of Lust for Vengeance . Following a bank heist, trust and camaraderie between the gang of misfit crooks is at an all-time low. Were there six bags of swag, or only five? Judas is convinced there were six. Fergus is sure there were five. Is Fergus right, or did the conniving Hugo have something to do with the missing loot? Or Judas himself? Or even sweet, innocent Vinny?

One thing's for sure - being a gangland boss accused of ripping off his own team isn't a good thing. Fergus needs to fix this and quick, before Jude's big mouth turns the whole mob against him.

But Fergus has enough to deal with already, what with the fact that Mikhail just walked out on him...or did he?

Lesson in Betrayal is a madcap adventure through small-town organised crime. From Mikhail's opulent brothel, to a converted bar by an isolated loch, to the grungy lock-up where the gang carry out all their dirty work, the setting is immaculate. It takes a skilled author to keep a character likable even when he's about to execute an innocent to take the fall for him, yet Katsura manages to do exactly that. Yes, these are real gangsters - they kill as easily as they take breath - but still, as a reader, I forgave them.

Lesson In Betrayal is a gritty gangland tale, a love story, a laugh-out-loud comedy, all held together by the common bond of friendship. It's a wonderful story about fascinating characters, compellingly told. I highly, highly recommend it.

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