Pulp novelist AB Patterson recently released his second novel about private investigator Harry Kenmare, Harry’s Quest. The appropriately titled novel explores Harry’s quest to exact vengeance upon the pedophile murderers who tortured, raped, and killed Harry’s daughter, Orla, several years prior to the events of the novel. As you could imagine, having survived the tragedy has changed Harry. He’s a hard-drinking, debaucherous, middle-aged man with a distinct sense of justice that includes returning some depraved physical violence against the types of men and women who engage in pedophilia. I think most of us can sympathize with Harry’s innermost hatred of those kinds of perverts, and as such can root for Harry to succeed in his revenge.
Like most PIs in the literary world, Harry started as a cop, but eventually left. In most hard-boiled fiction it’s because of corruption and cover-ups that don’t jibe with the protagonist’s sense of morality, and that’s also the case here. One of the men involved in the pedophile ring that killed Orla was a high-ranking police official, and Harry’s exposure of this official and stymied attempt to seek justice are enough to force him out of uniform.
In this second book, Harry has a coterie of assistants, such that he has to retitle his private investigative business from Kenmare to Kenmare and Associates. Joining his little crew is his friend Trevor, also a former cop, and the twins Sasha and Tanya, former prostitutes Harry saved from exploitation in the previous novel, Harry’s World.
I’ll be honest in saying this isn’t the type of novel I typically read. I mean, I’ve read a lot of hard-boiled fiction over the years, but my tastes have never really been for contemporary crime fiction. That said, based on prior experience with his work, I expected Patterson to deliver a good story with a lot of action and attention to detail. After all, Patterson himself is a former vice cop. Also, as he is a native Australian, the stories are peppered with Australian slang, which lends even more credence and authority to the voice. Luckily for those of us in the rest of the world, Patterson has provided a glossary, though after the first 100 pages or so you won’t need to refer to it anymore.
I won’t spoil the events of the novel. In short, Harry is tasked with uncovering some union corruption, and along the way gains the ability to right a political wrong with the help of some Irish gangsters, and also pursues and delivers vigilante justice against pedophiles, both those involved in Orla’s murder and others. There are pigs involved, and if you’ve read any crime fiction or true crime stories, you can guess where they figure into the story. Along the way he has to say goodbye to some friends, but also gets to engage in some hot, sweaty sex with gorgeous women.
Do be aware this novel is not for prudes or those with weak stomachs. On an American movie or TV rating scale, this would be at the hardest end of R or TV/MA. In terms of sexual content, think Starz network tv shows like American Gods, Spartacus, or Black Sails.
The writing is mostly solid, with a few spots where I felt the craft could have used more polish, mostly on the technical end rather than story development. It’s certainly not a huge drawback to the pace of the story, but a couple times I was pulled out of the story and had to reread a section to make sure I understood what I’d read. If I had one complaint with the overall plotting, it’s that Harry does come across as a bit of a Mary Sue some times, as I’m never really in doubt that he’s going to win and get his vengeance and the confounding factors don’t really slow him down at all. Still, that’s a minor complaint.
The novel does leave room for a sequel, which I’ll be looking forward to reading in a few years.
If you’re a fan of Switchblade magazine, one of our compatriots in indie pulp publishing, you’ve probably come across Patterson’s work in the past. If you haven’t, you ought to buy Harry’s World and Harry’s Quest. Patterson is right at home in the pages of Switchblade and his books are larger versions of what you’ve read there.