Looking back at the books I have read this year, Hugh Fraser's three novels, Harm, Threat, and Malice, are without a doubt some of the most memorable reads: I cannot remember the last time I read a series that I had so many problems with, and that, at the same time, made me laugh so much and was so gripping that I had to read the entire series.
I had problems with the first book, Harm, a few weeks ago, and in particular the depiction of a gritty side of London (and it hardly can get any grittier or more violent, and - in parts - more sickening). In fact, all three books are full of similar elements - except that the award for scenes that made me go "eeeww" has to go the Threat for its graphic displays
of murder and necrophilia
And yet! I had to read on. I loved Rina, our kick-ass main character. Considering she is an assassin, she's not as amoral as the her job title makes her out to be. She's motivated - so we are told - by the wish to take care of and make a better life for her kid sister. Having been thrown into a life of crime, she makes the best of her circumstances, which just happens to lead to ... more crime. But just as Rina and her friends are not all bad, the characters who are portrayed as fitting in with society are not really all that good. A part of the enjoyment of reading about Rina is reading about how she is able to hold a mirror up to respectability and show that it isn't all it is cracked up to be.
Of the three books, I liked Threat (book #2) best, even tho it did gross me out, and even tho the chapter set in Berlin was awful.
In addition to Rina being contracted as a more colourful version of James Bond, it also showed more about Rina's relationships at home, and how she cares for her kid sister and her girlfriend.
The third book, Malice, seems the most sedate of the three, but it may just be that I could not muster up that much interest in London gangsters. Malice certainly lacked the - what I call - "WTH-elements" of the first two books.
I hope there will be more books in the series, and I am probably going to read them if there are: the books are entertaining, and I loved reading them in between more serious tomes. Still, it is better to approach them the same way I would approach a Bond novel ... with a glass of wine and a pinch of salt.
Harm - 2.5*
Threat - 3.5*
Malice - 3*