Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum

Once a Crooked ManOnce a Crooked Man

by David McCallum

Hardcover, 337 pg.
Minotaur Books, 2016

Read: March 22 – 30, 2016

If you’ve enjoyed Hugh Laurie’s The Gun Seller, Eoin Colfer’s Daniel McEvoy books, Elmore Leonard’s lighter works (like say, the Chili Palmer books), or the like — there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll enjoy this.

Max Bruschetti is a pretty successful organized crime figure, but circumstances have brought Max and his brothers, Enzo and Sal to the point where they’ve decided to retire, and live off the smart investments made of their ill-gotten gains. There’s just a few details to clean up first. By “details” I, of course, mean employees who can testify against them; and by “clean up,” I mean “kill.”

Harry Murphy, a frequently employed actor and very occasional public unrinator, overhears the Bruschetti brothers making these plans. For reasons beyond my ken, he decides that instead of calling the police, he hops on a plane to London to warn one of the targets.

Things get strange, twisty, turny and out of control from there.

Along the way, Harry meets DS Elizabeth Carswell who accompanies him back to New York to track down the people who sent the killer to England. Lizzie is a great character — I’d gladly read a series about her (at least her life leading up to the events of this book, I’m not so sure how interested I’d be in what comes after — but maybe); tough, smart, damaged in the way the best police characters are.

The characters in this book are just great — even people we meet for just a few pages. There are so many details to some of these characters that we just don’t need, and other authors wouldn’t bother including. But McCallum does, and I’m so glad he did.

There’s one thing that I can’t believe an editor let go — there’s a rape scene. I’ve read worse (i.e., more graphic, violent, horrific, detailed), but it was pretty unnerving — and an oddly dark turn for this book. But what’s worse is the way that the victim reacted — not immediately, that seemed to line up with reality — but longer-term, that was just wrong. It was tasteless, questionable in terms of characters, and (at least in the eyes of some) socially irresponsible. I really tarnished the whole book for me (and the more I think about it, the worse it gets — so I’m moving on).

I wouldn’t say that this was funny, but there was a comedic slant to it. Plenty of action, a dash of violence, and plenty of good ol’ entertainment bag for your buck. McCallum’s got actual writing chops and I hope has another novel up his sleeve — it’s not like Ducky has a lot to do on NCIS anyway, he’s got time.


3.5 Stars

2 thoughts on “Once a Crooked Man by David McCallum

  1. Dear Irresponsible Reader, I have just finished reading Mr McCallum book and your only person I have found who has reviewed book as well, I have waited until now to read your post because I have been doing the same but chapter by chapter, the last post will go to this comming Saturday I think have reached the same conclusion about Miss Carswell our leading lady if you would see my review please start here https://martynjamesmoore.wordpress.com/2017/01/21/bookends-bookreview-once-a-crooked-man-by-david-mccallum/


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