Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Saturday's Child.
Meet unlicensed P.I. Callum Innes, fresh out of jail for a crime he didn’t commit, asked to take a runaway case by small-time ganglord “Uncle” Morris Tiernan. The crime: a murder committed by Morris’s psychotic son, Mo. Because Cal owes Morris a “favor”, he agrees to locate a blackjack dealer who’s absconded from town with the $10,000 he stole. He doesn’t find out until later that the dealer, Rob Stokes, has also run off with Tiernan’s conniving sixteen-year-old stepdaughter, Alison. In the course of pursuing Stokes, Innes takes beatings from the police, the bad guys, and even the ex-boxer Paulo, who took him in after his stint in the prison known as Strangeways. If you’re a fan of British noir (and if you’re not, you will be once you read this book), Saturday's Child by Ray Banks, introducing hard-boiled, hard-drinking Cal Innes, will be a book you’ll want to add to your Must-Read List.
The action and plot are fast-paced, peppered with practically every swear word known to man. Also, Banks has a colorful way to describe people’s faces. For example, when Cal shows up for his “morning spar” with Paulo, in whose club he also has his office, he writes, “Paulo’s waiting for me with a face like a smacked arse.” A girl working at Roscoe’s, a tattoo parlor, “looks like she covered her face in glue and headbutted a bag of ball bearings.” I personally like Banks’ inventiveness, and to me his use of curse words is justified as a way to more accurately portray the characters he writes about. Still, it’s not a novel for anyone concerned with or bothered by a lot of expletives in the books they read.
Innes has grave misgivings about taking the job Morris offers him, but there are many reasons that compel him to agree: for one, the pay, half of which he receives in advance, and half when he calls Mo. It’s not a grand sum - when he opens the envelope Morris gives him, there’s about “ five hundred in twenties,” - but for Innes, it’s a “lot of money.” And, he reasons, how hard can it be? “Find a runaway, simple as.” Perhaps most importantly, Morris believes Cal “owes him,” and this will be a way for Innes to cancel any debt owed:
But then, according to The Uncle, I owe him. And I’ll still owe him if I turn
this down. The next job he offers me might be mandatory, and it might throw
me back in the ‘Ways.
Nothing, it seems, is ever as “simple” as someone makes it out to be; but, when you’re offered a job by someone like Morris who’s “been linked to the deaths of thirty-seven men in his career” and who “hasn’t done a day behind bars for any of them,” it’s best for one’s health to not make like Nancy Reagan and “just say no.” Complicating matters for Innes is that he has to contend with Mo, who wants to impress his father by locating Stokes first. He doesn’t like Cal being on the case at all, and he and his “scally” (scalawag) friends do what they can to thwart Innes and get to Stokes and Alison before he does. Mo has the added incentive that he’s had a child by his step-sister and doesn’t want his dad to learn that he’s the father of the kid.
Saturday's Child is a violent E-Ticket of a ride that carries you along at a breakneck pace. It’s raw, graphic, dark, bloody and gritty, a throwback to the writing of greats like Raymond Chandler. Cal takes a licking and keeps on butt-kicking, eventually proving that a good cricket bat can handle one’s anger management issues quite effectively. I would have liked an ending that was more conclusive, though, and would have liked Mo to get busted out by his father and possibly in trouble with the cops. That’s my only complaint about this otherwise excellent book. I highly recommend Saturday's Child to anyone who likes high-octane thrillers.