Sunday 23 August 2020

BLOG TOUR: Layer Cake - J. J. Connolly


Layer cake (n): a metaphor for the murky layers of the criminal world.

Smooth-talking drug dealer X has a plan to quietly bankroll enough cash to retire before his thirtieth birthday. Operating under the polished veneer of a legitimate businessman, his mantra is to keep a low profile and run a tight operation until it’s time to get out .

When kingpin Jimmy Price asks him to find the wayward daughter of a wealthy socialite who’s been running around with a cokehead, he accepts the job with the promise that after this he can leave the criminal world behind with Jimmy’s blessing. Oh, and he needs to find a buyer for two million ecstasy pills acquired by a crew of lowly, loud-mouth gangsters, the Yahoos. Simple enough, until an assassin named Klaus arrives to scratch him off his list, revealing this job is much more than it seems at first.

From the glitz of the London club scene of the 1990’s to the underbelly of its criminal world, Layer Cake is the best in British crime fiction.

What did I think?

I didn't realise that Layer Cake was a book before it was a film until the 20th Anniversary edition of the book was advertised.  I watched the film before I read the book so I was intrigued to see how they would compare.  I really wanted to be able to say that the book was better, which it is to a degree, but J. J. Connolly wrote both the book and the screenplay so the film storyline follows the book very closely indeed.  Reading the book actually enhanced the film for me as I got to know the characters better and accessed more details of the story.

One thing I struggled with at first was the usage of slang in the book so I found myself stopping to google things every few minutes.  It does give massive authenticity to the story but I could've done with a little glossary at the end of the book where I could look up things like boob, lolly pops and lionels.  The slang is completely necessary though as it immerses the reader into the heart of drug-fuelled London and it feels like the main character is talking to you and taking you into his confidence.

There is no honour among thieves and there are no friends in the drug scene.  It's all very cutthroat and it's a business that the main character, X, wants to retire from as he approaches his 30th birthday.  The drug scene is kind of like a beehive with a king instead of a queen at the top and various levels of workers beneath him, hence the title of the book: Layer Cake.  X just wants to make enough money so that he can spend his days sitting on a beach sipping cocktails in the sun, but getting out of the business might not be that easy.  When he is given a strange task to find a missing girl, X becomes the hunter and the hunted.

Dark, gritty, brutal and brilliant, Layer Cake is a stunning portrayal of the British drug scene in the noughties.  The writing is so vivid and fresh that you feel as if there is a movie being projected into your brain from J. J. Connolly's intense and authentic words.  You've seen the film, now read the book; it's an absolute classic.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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