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January 16, 2012 / John Sheridan

Review: Start Shooting by Charlie Newton

Links: Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK

Charlie Newton debuted with a bang with his first novel “Calumet City” (Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK) landing nominations for Edgar, Macavity & Steel Dagger awards. His followup “Start Shooting” is published this month.

The prologue references two events whose interconnection will become clear later in the novel – firstly, the rape-murder of an Irish-American girl in Chicago in the 1980’s and secondly, the disappearance of an unspecified box in Japan following World War II.

From there, we’re introduced to Bobby Vargas a gang cop in Chicago and Arleen Brennan – the twin sister of the dead girl who is also an aspiring actress and unfortunately is involved against her will in the illicit dealings of Bobby’s brother Ruben, also a cop.

The sudden entrance of another cop conspirator, Robbie Steffen, precedes a rapid explosion of violence. Likewise when the initial drug buy conducted by Bobby’s gang team supplemented by two federal agents goes badly wrong leaving one of the agents dead and everyone else wondering why the agents are there and if they have been setup to take a fall. Newton excels in producing these surges of adrenaline while also raising the prospect of the intended assassination of Bobby Vargas.

None of the potential scenarios that would explain the presence of federal agents exactly please the cops and when Bobby and his brother Ruben become the subject of a tabloid expose accusing them of being complicit in the death of Coleen Brennan, Bobby quickly gets isolated and is forced to assist the surviving agent while not being exactly sure of her agency credentials, whether she can be trusted or what she is actually trying to achieve. Meanwhile other unsavoury allegations surface and the only way for Arleen and Bobby to get out from under suspicion, survive and get away is to “Start Shooting”.

This is the second novel that I’ve read in less than a year to feature biological weapons in Chicago – there must definitely be something in the water there. Covering similar ground to Michael Harvey’s “We All Fall Down” (Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository UK) (in that biological weapons feature prominently) I found this dealt with the subject matter much more convincingly (aided by WWII references to Japan conducting virus experiments which may or may not be true but strikes a convincing note in the narrative and certainly add a degree of credence to the storyline when needed).

A happy ever after ending will bring a tear to the eye if you’re so inclined. All told, a very enjoyable tale with powerhouse action scenes that explode out of nowhere (reminiscent of the famous shootout from Heat). One can’t help but feel for the two lead characters as they’re exploited by others and stumble around oblivious to the who, what and why that is happening around them.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Related Posts: Review of “We All Fall Down” by Michael Harvey http://wp.me/p6kwu-V2)

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