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I love reading but for some reason I don't seem to have the time to read as much as I would like to so my recent holiday meant that I got some time to lose myself in a good book - The Business Of Dying
The Business of Dying is Simon Kernick's first book.
About The Author
Simon Kernick was born 1966 in the town of Slough. After leaving school in the mid 1980s, he worked in a variety of jobs including bring a labourer on a road-building gang (until an industrial accident cut short a promising career); stockroom assistant for a major IT company and a fruit picker,
He also spent several years living and travelling in Canada and the USA before returning to England via Australia and the Far East to complete his studies.
Simon Kernick currently lives in Oxfordshire with his wife and two young daughters and is just about to start writing his sixth book.
About The Book
As I already mentioned, this is the first book by Simon Kernick and it was also the first book I read.
I have to admit that the book made very good reading and had me captured from the very first page.
The style is fast paced with twisting storylines meaning you will find it hard to put this book down!.
The book itself is very well written and really gets you gripped from the first page as it has a rather exciting start to the book - Detective Sergeant Dennis Milne shooting dead three drug dealers, only to find out afterwards that he has in fact killed three innocent men. Not only are they innocent men, they are also Customs & Excise Officers.
The main character of the book is Detective Sergeant Dennis Milne who I would describe as an old school policeman. The twist is that Milne is also a hit man on the side which does sound slightly far fetched but the writing style of this author certainly makes the whole plot very believable.
The book is fairly fast paced and filled with suspense, leaving you wondering about what is going to happen next.
Throughout the book you get to see Milne trying to balance the life a Policeman alongside that of the professional hit man.
As a Sergeant, Milne is put on the case of a murdered prostitute. While investigating the murder he has to investigate the prostitutes world in London's King Cross, unravelling all the seedy things that happen.
His double life becomes increasingly difficult for him to keep a secret. At the back of his mind, he has the worry that he might be found out as the murderer of the three Customs and Excise officers.
As Milne continues the investigation into the murder of the young prostitute he discovers sickening practices involving other Police officers and also a child care worker.
Milne's life begins to spiral out of control, with more and more evidence against him for the murders of three Customs Officers he has committed, he begins to think his secret life might suddenly be uncovered.
The last few chapters of the book are extremely gripping and there are so many twists and turns until you finally discover the ending. Will Milne be discovered foe killing the three officers? Will he find out who kills the prostitute? And why can't he get hold of his friend Danny?? If you are already a fan of Thrillers then I would highly recommend this book.
Summary / My Opinion
I would highly recommend this book to any fan of thrillers. I think the writing style is fairly similar to that of Ian Rankin so if you are a Rankin fan, then this would probably be a book for you!
I thought that Kernick managed to make quite an unbelievable story really come to life, the copper who is a hit man on the side does sound quite laughable but Kernick brings the character to life and really has the reader believing the plot.
One thing I especially liked about the book was the fact that throughout the book, I was never entirely sure whether the reader is supposed to like Milne, after all, he has killed three innocent men... but on the same note, you get to learn a bit about Milne as a person and are left wondering if he really is that bad...
Highly recommended book! So much so that I am already halfway through his next book!!
I notice that most reviews on books and movies like to go on about the plot, im not going to. I dont want to give anything away, i just want you to understand why you should buy and read this book.
Now, Simon Kernick has a very perticular skillset, he has a way of telling violent, often disturbing stories in such a way that they are almost adventure stories. He comes up with great stories, often involving cops dealing with two seemingly unrelated but interwind cases, he throws his characters into ugly, brutal situations that god forbid, none of us ever end up in and they have there own skillset that allows them to deal with such situations.
The situation in this case (being carefull not to give anything away) is one of the best he has to offer and the main Character (in my opinion the best one he has created) has some very interesting ways in dealing with them. Most of which end in violence.
Now i dont want to sound like a sadist. But the violence he portrays is brutal, but my god does it get the blood pumping when your reading.
But of course the violence has to have a purpose, and the story portrade within the pages here is top notch, on one hand leaves you wondering why no one in hollywood has picked up and made one of these in to a movie, but on the other had praying they wont, in case (and very likely) the screw it up.
Any way, if you've read any of simons other work you'll know what im talking about, if not, trust me, for great crime stories, great characters, great action look no further !!
'The Business of Dying' is the debut novel by Simon Kernick. Kernick introduces Detective Sergeant Dennis Milne, a man who has taken to alternative means to supplement his income. Milne has a sideline in contract killing, but he is a killer with a conscious (of course!). He will only target people who he believes are evil. So when his usual contact gives him a job to kill three drug dealers Milne is happy to oblige. However, when the targets turn out to be two customs officers and an accountant Milne knows that he has been set up and that his police colleagues will be especially determined to solve the case with the customs involvement. He now has to find out who set him up, whilst ensuring his own tracks are covered.
I found this to be a highly enjoyable read, Kernick has a brilliant natural writing style which really works in this type of story. It's also written in the first person which I always think works better in a detective story. You obviously find things out as the character does and it allows you to review things in real time, although always from Milne's perspective. With the twists and different events in the story this was highly effective.
I expected this to be the main story thread but if anything it takes a back seat to following Milne's other police work. This was a little bit strange as it almost seemed like Milne was more interested in his day to day work than he was in working out how to resolve his own, far more serious (on a personal level anyway) issues.
Kernick does a great job of running various story threads together. In fact, one seemingly random story at the beginning turns out to play a fairly major part in later events. I liked this aspect to the book, there was no parallel stories just for the sake of it. Everything contributed to the overall story.
Another thing I really enjoyed in this book was the way that you could almost feel the net tightening on Milne. This didn't need to be spelt out, you just sensed the situation growing increasing out of his control. This coupled with Milne's increasing paranoia (a lot of it justified) drives the story forward to the inevitable big conclusion.
This story reminded me a lot of the TV series 'The Shield'. There are a lot of similarities between Milne and Vic Mackey, both being the cops who push the boundaries. But whilst Mackey is entirely convincing I felt the character of Milne wasn't one that held together quite as well as I had hoped. He seemed to be far too trusting of almost everyone he met, for a man in his position. Whilst I appreciate he keeps his two occupations entirely separate I felt it was extremely unlikely he would have found himself going down the hitman route, based on his actions in other circumstances. In saying that as the story progresses his character does get darker and darker but its hard to see why he would have set off down this route. He didn't appear to have any money issues and although it could be argued that he was venting frustration with the law favouring the criminals it does seem a rather big step. I think the story would have gained from having details of how he got involved in his first hit, rather than picking it up when he was a hitman.
A further irritation to me was that it was a nice twist having the customs officer and accountant as the victims when Milne thought they were drug dealers. Why reveal this on the back of the book? To me it would have made a lot more sense to hold this back for the actual book. I am sure a less revealing but equally appealing blurb could have been written for the cover.
Overall it is an enjoyable read and one you will likely motor through. Kernick updates you on what happens to Milne in his novel 'A Good Way to Die'. It is not surprising he returns to this character as you can tell from reading it, that it's clearly a character he enjoyed writing.
£4.18 on Amazon.
I often think that when I go out at night I look like an off duty police officer. I have a short haircut; I'm around 6 ft and a bit broad - perfect for the force! In fact, for a long time during my younger years I thought I may join the police as I have a keen sense of justice. Perhaps this sense of justice was why I decided not to in the end.... You see I am far too cynical to be in the police and I will never yield to any form of peer pressure, instead I like to go it alone. I had the sense that perhaps the police hide a few too many things from the general public and that as an institution they are not as white as white. I am not the only person that feels this way as Simon Kernick's 'The Business of Dying' suggests - he makes my cynicism seem like nothing!
DS Dennis Milne is disillusioned with the modern police. Over the years the constant under resourcing and seeing the same criminals reoffend has left him jaded. He still has a keen sense of justice, but cannot be bothered to partake of the politics that is needed to get a promotion and bigger pay packet. In fact, Milne gets his extra cash from dodgy work on the side including killing criminals for money. His seedy double life comes close to exposure when a hit he is involved in goes wrong. Now Milne is worried that he may get caught and still has to go on with the day to day work of catching the murderer of a prostitute. Can Milne hold it together long enough to avoid suspicion as well as solve his case?
This book was cynical, dark, depressing, damning of the police and emotionally cold - and I loved it! 'Business' is by far the most biting crime fiction that I have read in a long time and paints a very bleak picture of the current British police system. Milne is the central voice of the book and through him we pick up Kernick's own misgivings. As a reader you are constantly reminded of the lack of resources and integrity in the police. Milne repeatedly points out that a killer is only likely to be caught if he did something stupid - without the forensics the police have little chance of catching a random killer. This is all a bit disconcerting, but in my opinion, the truth. I am not as unforgiving as Kernick, but I do think that being a police officer is a very difficult job. Not only do you have to deal with a lot of horrible people, there's the criminals too!
If you like your crime fiction rose tinted this book is certainly not for you. I have read many crime books from the idyllic country mysteries to more modern nasty almost horror books. However, as a rule the books do not rip into the police as much as Kernick does. You can have an alcoholic or a cheater, but rarely will an author go as far as to make their central officer a killer for hire. It's the use of Milne at the centre that truly separates 'Business' from the pack. He is one hell of an anti hero. With a scant regard for human life Milne is a cold and heartless killer who sees people as a means to get what he wants. This should make him a pariah, but Kernick is very intelligent in explaining why he has become so distant - life. Milne did have a passion for justice, but he no longer feels the police are interested in it. He started off thinking he was killing for good, but has now just become another murderer. Personally, I loved him as an anti-hero and he is very charismatic. It has been a long time that I have read a book and worried about the character's outcome - I wanted Milne to survive, did he?
'The Business of Dying' is more than just a great character and slamming of the police. These dark elements would fall apart on their own; luckily they are held together in a great action thriller of a book. Kernick brilliantly balances the slow decent of Milne into chaos with his hunger to get the murderer he has been asked to investigate. With no positive goal Milne would have been nothing more than a scumbag you would hate. Instead Kernick cleverly makes him a fallen man whose sense of justice is still strong even if his moral compass is broken. I loved the pace of the book from its slow beginning to the break neck finale.
I was surprised how much I ended up enjoying 'The Business of Dying' when I had finished. To begin with I was unsure that such as vile character as Milne would make an attractive protagonist and that perhaps the tone of the book generally was on a downer. However, it is to Kernick's credit that the bleak nature of the book works and is unforgiving with its morbid nature. He throws so much action and darkness at you that you just get swallowed up by it all. 'Business' is a nasty, dark, mean and lean action crime thriller that would suite anyone who likes their crime fiction razor sharp.
Author: Simon Kernick
Price: amazon uk - £4.89
play.com - £4.99
Simon Kernicks debut novel The Business of Dying caught my eye not because it falls into the thriller genre, but because it was in a book clearance sale at Books Etc and cost the princely sum of £1.00. For an avid reader like me it is almost impossible to pass by such a bargain and Im delighted that I didnt on this occasion as this authors potential talent was evident in abundance.
Born in 1966 Simon Kernick led a fairly nomadic existence in his early adult years travelling extensively in the Far East, the USA and Australia. In 1991 he completed a Humanities Degree at Brighton Polytechnic releasing himself onto the job market smack bang in the middle of the last recession. His life appears fairly colourful with a number of different short term jobs including that of a Christmas tree uprooter (allegedly his favourite), before turning his hand to writing a couple of crime novels, somewhat unsuccessfully. However, early in 2001 The Business of Dying was completed and finally published in summer 2002 to much critical acclaim. Subsequent releases include The Murder Exchange and The Crime Trade.
The novel itself is extremely well written and starts off with an explosive thrilling entry; a journey which continues through this book from start to finish. Detective Sergeant Dennis Milne is an old school copper frequently frustrated with the punishment meted out by the criminal justice system. However, he is also a hitman on the side for one of Londons gangland bosses. Kernick takes an unbelievable situation and manipulates it into one of the most exciting, adventurous thrillers filled with anticipation and excitement that I have read in a long time.
The opening gambit is Milne picking off three drugs dealers; but the dealers are innocent men. Not only are they innocent men, but they are government officials Customs & Excise Officers. Subsequent events see him trying to balance the life of the respectable police Sergeant with that of the professional hitman. Kernick takes us on a harsh journey into the murky vice trade of seedy Londons King Cross as he sets about trying to solve the murder of a young prostitute. His double life becomes increasingly complex yet intertwined. As the investigation into the prostitute murder progresses, Milne uncovers shocking, horrifying, depraved practices involving fellow Police officers and child care workers, whilst in tandem his life as a hitman is unravelling before him and taking him into a downward spiral. The finale is tense and filled with suspense and anticipation of what the end result will be. Will the Sergeant mend his ways, does he get away with it, and is the prostitute murder solved? To answer these questions would be to give the plot away and of course Im not going to do that. If youre an enthusiast of the thriller genre then you will be gripped from the first page. I recommend you read it, you really wont be disappointed.
I liked the fact that the main character had such incredulous double standards. The complexity of such a situation was managed well within the plot and although rational thought tells you that its unreasonable and unbelievable, you know that its not! We know that corruption is part of everyday life, so why not thread that concept into a novel? I positively revelled in the sardonic wit that was evident in every single chapter of the book and enjoyed the dry humour evident in the most horrific situations.
To provide a well balanced review I would like to try and provide some constructive criticism but admit that in this instance it is a bit of a struggle. Perhaps the hardest aspect of the read is the fact that that majority of the story is delivered in the first person that is, through the eyes of DS Milne himself, so aside from this character the general characterisation of others could be perceived at weak. However, this is a minor flaw in my opinion. Another minor point is that scenes of gratuitous violence are described in minute detail, and if you have an imagination as vivid as mine, sometimes this makes for uncomfortable reading.
Fast paced, clever delivery ensures that you dont want to put this book down. The narrative is punchy, set out with a credibility that the plot suggests is beyond belief, yet the story is convincing to the reader. Some of the plaudits aimed at this book include Kernick shows every sign of being a major talent in his debut novel and Conscience meets cynicism in a gripping tough-talking tale of corruption and violence in high and low places. I couldnt agree more; a formidable new author has entered the arena to compete with the likes of James Paterson and Ian Rankin and I will undoubtedly be reading his subsequent efforts and eagerly looking out for the launch of a new publication in summer 2005.
Published by Corgi Books £6.99
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