Link to Amazon: Central City By Indy Perro
Reviewed August 2020
This is a jolly good book for one of those socially distant days that loom at you over breakfast, the way most days do during the current Covid lockdown. In my case it was a day doing solitary stuff in a garden, so I was pleased to have bought the audiobook (gardening with a kindle never goes well…) I plugged it in, and didn’t notice a thing for the rest of the day, until I found myself stumbling around in the dark, still absent mindedly pulling weeds (or was it my prize seedlings?) while my head was absolutely somewhere else.
Better than drugs, a decent audiobook. And Central City was more than merely ‘decent’.
It is an engrossing cop-noir: dodgy dives amongst gangs and prostitutes and rackets, and a string of murders all waiting to be solved by an intelligent honorable cop, (who naturally does his job because he believes in it, while everyone else does it mostly for the kickbacks). This is genre fiction, and some of the components were standard – but then the same could be said of Jane Austen and nobody slags her off for it. The familiary of the genre makes it sustaining, and in the gaps between predictable components there is space for interesting questions and a lot of unexpected characters. In this case, the questions were interesting – reflections on how we come to be who we are, how we know what we know, how we question the world and how so much of what we need to know is in the questions we don’t ask. It’s an intelligent book.
The characters were interesting too. Not so much the cop at the centre (I felt I’d met him before, and he was a bit of a placeholder – maybe this is part of a series and I’ll meet him again another time), but the characters all around him. There was a really interesting gangland criminal, straddling the gulf between good and evil, and set against him a criminal as vicious as you like, the pair of them slugging it out over their respective territories. A new detective, possibly not cut out for the job, but equally not a caricature of incompetence – a smart, intelligent, somewhat damaged character, trying to learn the job. I found myself thinking about the backstories of each character as I met them, and even the most minor figures – the ones met once then not again – seemed solid enough to have a backstory. There were women, too – real women – and this is a genre where three dimensional women are often hard to find. Perro draws his characters deftly, a single line or image capturing a life in all its depth of complexity. A young girl, barely more than a child, moving into prostitution, captured in a sentence as she poses awkwardly, trying to be alluring. An elderly, sharp, detached receptionist, wryly but politely berating the detectives for treating her as invisible. Characterisation is definitely a strong point in this novel.
The plotting was interesting and carried through well, following a trail of interesting leads, each of them rich with satisfaction and intrigue – the more so as each of them turned into dead ends. There were moments in the plotting that reminded me of greek tragedy – a recognition scene, some moments of thoughtful soliloquy, the pursuite of furies from the past. All well done. I was disappointed, however, to guess the killer part way through – whilst it is normal for the killer to be the person who seems least likely, it is very bad form for the author to flag up explicitly that the person concerned is insignificant – that immediately got my antennae working. Rookie error. Don’t do that again, Mr Perro!
I didn’t mind though. Guessing who did it didn’t answer the question about why, and that was worked out nicely and without too heavy a hand. I genuinely wanted to know, and the twists in the story kept me looking round corners all the way to finding out.
A good book. As with all the best audiobooks, I listened twice, and enjoyed it more the second time round. It was only on second listening that I noticed the beautiful narration by Brian Callanan – the first time round its magic was subliminal. He is very very good at capturing mood and conveying character through voices. He has done the author proud.
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This review was undertaken as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. I purchased the audiobook through Audible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Indy Perro is a novelist, an independent thinker, and a recovering academic. Indy has a degree in history, graduate degrees in religious studies, comparative literature, and education, and has spent more than a decade teaching philosophy, religious studies, writing, and literature. While continuing numerous side projects and building a career as an author, Indy launched his website, Indyperro.com, to reach a larger audience, an audience interested in the practice of writing. “We’re all in this together. Let’s connect, have a conversation, and engage each other to generate meaning.”