- Shaun Baines
Dying Seconds by Nick Rippington
May contain spoilers.
Dying Seconds is the third book in the Boxer Boys series. It chronicles the changing circumstances of the Dolan family and their attempts to stay aloft in a violent world. When an estranged family member is murdered, suspicion falls on everyone. It is down to one man to find the killer and to do that, he must face some dark family secrets.
I must admit I have not read the author's previous two books (something I'll be remedying shortly as part of a blog tour later in the year), but it didn't take me long to get into the flow. It is a sprawling story, blending gangster and domestic noir for a mix as potent as dynamite. Family feuds, old rivalries and gangland action – it's all here.
The characters are larger than life, but with an authentic feel. I was drawn to Arnie Dolan, the ousted gang leader who now finds himself in a wheelchair. He is violent and temperamental, both untrustworthy and distrustful of others. I love a character who appears to be beyond redemption, but who finds it nonetheless. To depict that successfully on the page is testimony to the author's skills as a writer.
I was also drawn to Gareth, the almost-hero of the piece. Despite his new beginnings and the young family he adores, Gareth is pulled back into his old life and I felt for every quandary thrown his way. His tenacity is admirable, especially as he unearths some unsavoury skeletons from the family closet.
Despite these two strong characters, Dying Seconds is an ensemble piece with switching narrative voices. As a result, I sometimes found myself backtracking to remind myself who was who and what was what. This is more of a reflection on me, but the book requires a degree of concentration. On a positive note, however, this approach gives the writing a greater depth.
The book roams through various locations and the dialogue reflects that. It's a perceptive touch allowing for a greater sense of place, pulling the reader into the culture of a region as well as its people. Added to that are some inciteful details that bring those places to life.
The twist in the tail comes with a sting. I'm a fairly smart guy and I didn't see the end coming. When it did, it was handled well. The facts were teased out and it landed with the kind of satisfactory thud this book deserved.
I thoroughly enjoyed Dying Seconds. I would recommend reading the Boxer Boys series in order for a fuller experience, but it can easily be read as a standalone.
Dying Seconds by Nick Rippington is available from Amazon.