Review: Down Among the Dead Men by Kerry Wilkinson

Monday, 25 January 2016
Title: Down Among the Dead Men
Author: Kerry Wilkinson
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: 352
Pages: 22nd October 2015
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
'I'm going to do you a favour: I'm going to tell you my name and then I'm going to give you thirty seconds to turn and run. If any of you are still here after those thirty seconds, then we're going to have a problem.'

Jason Green's life is changed for good after he is saved from a mugging by crime boss, Harry Irwell. He is then drawn into Manchester's notorious underworld, where smash and grab is as normal as making a cup of tea.

But Jason isn't a casual thug. He has a life plan that doesn't involve blowing his money on the usual trappings. That is until a woman walks into his life offering the one thing that money can't buy - salvation.

Kerry Wilkinson was on my TBR pile for a long time before I finally took the plunge and picked up the first book in his DS Jessica Daniel series, Locked In. I've since read a couple more books from that series and I am really enjoying Kerry's storytelling ability and his brilliant characterisation and hoped that would continue with Down Among the Dead Men. My favourite genre of books are those written by the likes of Martina Cole, Jessie Keane and Kimberley Chambers and that's the vibe I got with this book even before picking it up. It wasn't quite in the league of any of the aforementioned authors but it was still an enjoyable read.

Down Among the Dead Men opens with an instantly recognisable scene to me coming from Liverpool. Liverpool isn't dissimilar to its rival city, Manchester and there are areas in Liverpool exactly like the one depicted here which sees Jason Green as a teenager, out walking the streets in his brand new trainers. A local gang immediately spots Jason sporting the shoes but Jason is savvy about the local area and makes a run for it, eventually being rescued by local crime boss Harry Irwell. Jason then essentially owes Harry and finds himself unwittingly (at first) drawn into Manchester's notorious underworld.

Kerry Wilkinson's writing is vivid and descriptive. The reader immediately gets a real sense of the setting and can easily picture the scenes playing out on the page. Characterisation is mostly strong throughout, apart from the fact that compared to some of the villains I've read about in the past, Harry was a lot tamer than some of those. Jason is an extremely intriguing character however and as with most villains in this genre, there were times when I wasn't completely sure about him. He isn't for example a down and out criminal, that was never his destiny. After all, there are plenty of kids who do manage to go on and escape the area they are born into, but because of his meeting with Harry, Jason found his life taking a very unexpected turn. Because we meet Jason before all of this, and learn more about his history before he turned to crime, I felt that it was easier to see some of the good in him and truth be told, I might even have liked him sometimes.

I have no idea if this is the first book in a series but I definitely think it should be. In a world full of untrustworthy characters you never fully know just where the real danger is coming from, nor who you should and shouldn't trust. As the book nears its conclusion the reader is in for plenty of twists and turns and Kerry delivers a satisfying conclusion that left me wanting more. All in all an enjoyable standalone read from Kerry Wilkinson and I hope to be reading more from Jason Green in the future.

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