Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beast of Burden by, Ray Banks

Mo Tiernan is missing.

This one simple fact kicks off Beast of Burden, the fourth book in Ray Banks's Cal Innes series.  Through the course of the previous three novels, Innes has been beat up, blown up, lost part of an ear, developed a painkiller addiction, and had a stroke.  Burden opens with him picking up an application for a barista job; one of the few jobs left someone who's "half mong" can do to support himself.  So when local gangster "Uncle" Morris Tiernan says Innes is the only one he trusts to find his wayward son, Innes throws himself into the job.  Naturally, Innes finds Mo dead, but that only propels him further into the case.

It's enjoyable to watch Innes in full-blown private eye mode again.  He was so good at it, and Banks writes these stories so well.

As it is the fourth and final book in the Innes series, it serves as a natural bookend with Saturday's Child.  In fact, there are more than a few callbacks to the earlier book.  Not only are Mo and Morris back, but so are Mo's associates Baz and Rossie, an increased role for Cal's friend Paulo, and several run-ins with Mo's half-sister Alison (who disappeared with the croupier Cal was hired to find in Child).  Banks even does the parallel narrator trick he did in Child, this time bouncing between Innes and DS Donkin, a cop with a sour disposition and a vendetta against Innes.

The only quibble I have is I couldn't figure out who killed Mo.  The killer's reveal was breathtakingly perfect and made complete sense within the landscape of the series.  My eyes went wide when I read the line.  But I don't remember any hints being dropped that would lead the reader to that conclusion.  That being said, it didn't detract at all from my enjoyment of this novel.

Beast of Burden is a noir masterpiece, the perfect conclusion to Banks's Innes series.

Read the whole series from the beginning.

Highly recommended.

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