"Nine Lives is a witty character-driven caper novel in which, Ed Case, finds himself tangled up with some of the murkier elements of the London underworld. The novel’s use of characterisation is strong throughout; Ed and Bob are well-defined and fun to read. The dynamic between TJ and the different girls working in the strip club sounds natural and is well-handled and Johnny, in particular, is characterised effectively and succinctly despite having relatively few appearances in the novel, which aids the sense of both his web of influence and his lack of actual power. The novel’s use of introspection to explore its characters’ mental and emotional states and give them psychological depth is effective; the development of Ed’s self-destructive tendencies, and the rupture this causes in his relationship with Laura, is particularly well-handled, and this kind of character-driven storytelling is one of the novel’s main strengths. The contrast between passages set in Central London and at Ed’s home, and later in the Lake District, works well to texture the novel. The pace is handled equally well, particularly towards the later sections and during action passages; in particular, the intercut points of view in the build-up to Ed and Bob finding Denton in TJ’s flat are effective in building tension and drawing events to a close."
It’s a good story and an enjoyable read, with blood and death and action, intrigue, corrupts cops: everything one could want from a London-set crime/gangster book with an indomitable hero and his trusty lover/sidekick. A really good book.
The various characters in the story are brought to life with ease. The dialogue is genuine of London nightlife, and the way the characters interact is convincing as well. There are no elaborate displays of description, which would seem out of place, and everything is instead constructed on the page with an easy, flowing narrative that is simple but not simplistic. What needs to be described is described and the rest is left up to the readers’ imagination, which is how an action story of this sort should be. The plot itself is a complex one, but its set out nicely in the story so that the reader doesn’t get confused, it is also not too complex that it becomes boring.
TJ is, from the moment she’s introduced, a winning character. She’s extremely likeable and becomes an anchor, for the reader, of what is good amid the sordid, tacky atmosphere of the nightclub that Jonny runs. The author does a good job of making the whole affairs seem nefarious from the beginning, and the reader is certainly suspicious of Jonny, just like our main character Ed.
In terms of the action, there is a lot of it, a lot of violence as well but it isn’t gratuitous. There are moments of high tension, such as when Ed is told to shoot Barry and the consequences that follow, and there are extremely tender moments as well, such as in TJ’s flat after the disastrous encounter with Johnny and Jim.
After Ed and Bob team up the story becomes reminiscent of ‘Two Smoking Barrels’, at this point the violence becomes almost gratuitous but it’s a nice touch to the story as the reader has been waiting for these thugs to get what’s coming to them. The car chase with Ed and Bob running away from Mo is a piece of classic action literature, which witty comments and humorous one-liners thrown in for good measure. This is just the beginning though, as the manuscript quickly culminates in a grand finale as all the parts are brought together and Ed finally confronts Johnny in his own club and learns the truth of the matter, that he has actually been held by the balls by Blackthorn and not the other way round.
Seeing Johnny in such a weak position among his ‘associates’ is unsettling and adds a degree of dramatic irony to the story as the climax builds. The revelations from Blackthorn about TJ’s mother are shocking and provocative, making Johnny’s final act of penance believable. Once TJ and Ed get away from the ordeal at the club that manuscript takes on a ‘winding down’ feel, the reader can almost feel the author beginning to wrap the story up, which makes the appearance of Jim at Ed’s house all the more spectacular.