To this day, he is haunted by his actions. After that, he could no longer wear the badge proudly; he moved from London to the Philippines and is operating as a contract killer under an assumed name, "Mick Kane". Most of his assignments come through his partner, Tomboy Darke, who answers to a solicitor in England named Les Pope. It is Tomboy who lets Dennis know that his one-time partner, a straight arrow named Asif Malik, has been gunned down in a London restaurant. Why would he give up a fairly nice life in order to seek justice?
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The wait to see Milne again was certainly worth it, for Good Day is a deliciously complex suspenser. Its Ian Flemingesque title and cover design are curiously appropriate, given the globe-trotting air, unscrupulous twists and internal conflicts delivered here -- all of which would be most familiar to literary spy James Bond.
Those who read The Business of Dying will likely remember it as a fast-paced, hip narrative firmly rooted in gangland North London. As he explains in Good Day Drug dealers; child molesters; the worst kind of criminals. However, all that changed three years ago, when I made a mistake and shot some men I was told were bad guys, but who were actually anything but.
People lie. Which is why, at the end of The Business of Dying, Milne "ended up on the run, with the police, Interpol and God knows who else after my blood. Next, Pope assigns our man to do away with Billy Warren, another criminal fleeing justice back in the United Kingdom. Milne takes this news of Slippery slaying Malik hard: [Malik had] always struck me as a man who was going places. He was hard-working, bright and, most importantly of all, decent.
Most coppers are decent people underneath it all, but some -- myself included -- get more cynical as the years go by and the crime rate keeps rising. But time, and the growing realization that what I was delivering was nothing more than a sticking plaster for a gaping wound, had corrupted me to the point where both my reputation and my conscience were now well beyond repair.
It was possible that Malik had changed too. But somehow I doubted it. To Malik, life had been relatively simple. There was good and there was evil, and it was the duty of all right-thinking people to try to promote the former and stamp out the latter. Even if that means squaring off against the powerful, merciless Pope.
His dialogue is sharper and his turns of phrase tighter. Kernick, like myriad other contemporary British writers, ploughs the furrow created by Golden Age veterans such as Alistair MacLean, Geoffrey Household, Leslie Charteris, Eric Ambler and, of course, Fleming, all of whom had a preference for sending dodgy heroes into campaigns for justice.
Dennis Milne follows that tradition with zest. Arriving once more in London, Milne quickly settles back into "the life. Was it connected to his police work?
A series of misadventures follow, as Milne knocks elbows with some pretty profound scoundrels and begins to wonder about the fabric of his own reality. Lacking friends, unable to use his previous contacts in the British capital, and short of help from others, the former detective sergeant turns eventually for assistance to newspaper reporter Emma Neilson.
Thus joined by common purpose, she and the elder Milne soon find themselves crawling beneath the rocks of the underworld. And from the stresses of their predicament, they form a physical bond. But the cynical ex-cop senses something amiss as he and Emma uncover a conspiracy that leads right to the pillars of influence -- and turns this taut thriller back upon itself.
That the mercenary Dennis Milne starts out in this tale by committing two cold-blooded homicides, yet winds up at the close looking like a champ, tells readers much about the variety of yarn from which Kernick prefers to spin his stories. As a novel of raw urban realism, hard-charging action and ever-escalating stakes, Good Day is second to none. For my money, that opportunity is worth the price of admission. Reviewing A Good Day to Die, author Laura Lippman, whose own fiction In Big Trouble , Every Secret Thing , To the Power of Three regularly gazes into the fissures of our delicately ordered culture, called this book "a fast-paced yet deeply moral thriller with a thoughtful protagonist who never mistakes himself for a hero.
July Ali Karim is an industrial chemist, freelance journalist and book reviewer living in England.
A Good Day to Die