Adrian McKinty: Fifty Grand (3 stars)

Adrian McKinty

Seeking to avenge the death of a father she hardly knew, cop Mercado flees unrelentingly bleak Cuba for the celebrity-filled Colorado ski resort where he was killed in a hit-and-run, his demise covered up with a pay-off to the sheriff. With a luxurious façade maintained by the labour of impoverished illegal immigrants, the place is sordid in the extreme and how the celebrities fictionally placed there – Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Matthew Broderick – will feel about being associated with its drug dealers, slave labour, bent cops and murderers, I’m not sure.

A female protagonist could have given a fresh angle to a crime novel, but attempting to create a tough-talking heroine, Adrian McKinty’s overdone it somewhat. Instead of a female character, she’s merely attempting to out-men the men, a parody of male cops of a similar ilk. Perhaps appearing more macho than her blokish contemporaries is a job requirement, but until the final chapter when McKinty gives her some poetic depth and expression, she might as well be any other affectedly tough-talking male cop.

McKinty has some poetic moments: ‘we Cubans are the vagabond descendants of the Muslim kingdom of Granada,’ says Mercado at one point. It’s slick and well-paced, and the minimalist, punchy delivery is striking, but it’s over-stylised and trying too hard. Ultimately, what you get out of Fifty Grand depends on the reason you’re reading it. If you want a fast-paced cop tale with plot twists and suspense, then fine. If you’re after originality and a fresh take on the crime genre, it will likely disappoint.

(Serpent’s Tail)

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