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*
Nick gets to his feet and puts his glass on the mantlepiece.
‘I’d like you to meet my boss.’
‘Have I got a choice?’
He laughs. ‘Not really.’
I swallow the rest of my whisky and lead him to the front door. He puts his hat on and says, ‘Shall I send a car for you in an hour?’
‘If you want.’ I go to open the door but he puts a hand on my arm.
‘Won’t you be happier knowing that you’re serving your country?’
‘I’m not sure it’s that simple.’
‘There won’t be any need for you to curtail your other activities.’
I open the door for him.
‘Goodbye Rina,’ he says, as he walks towards the lift.
I go back into the lounge, pour myself a whisky, sit down on the sofa and take a long drink. My life’s like a lobster pot; dead easy to get into but fucking difficult to get out of.
Hahahaha... Wouldn't you know it,
MI6 is on the scene!
This is a kind of Bond novel after all,
but it is a lot more fun.