Author: Martin Hopkins
Pages: 226 (ebook)
Published: December 21st 2011
Published by: Amazon
Jekyll & Hyde for the 21st Century. Watch out! The psychopathic Professor H is coming...
Daniel Walker is an enigmatic young man in his mid-twenties, living and working in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. He is handsome, intelligent, sleep deprived and often hungover. He works in a corporate office, hates his job and his moronic boss. The majority of his time is spent in various pubs throughout the capital, discussing the world with his friends and where it all went wrong.
On his reluctant walks to work, Dan notices there are an abundance of people sleeping rough on the streets, begging for money. He feels empathy for those less fortunate and tries to help them when he can. Realisation quickly dawns on him that not everyone claiming to be homeless is genuine - often it is merely a scam; free money to spend on drugs, alcohol and other addictions.
When his love interest, Emily, is attacked by a 'Dark Stranger', Dan must infiltrate an underground street community, to catch the elusive attacker. He gets caught in a deadly game of survival as he hunts for the attacker and is hunted himself. The closer he gets to finding his man, the closer he comes to living the life he was pretending to have.
Dan soon discovers the old abandoned house in the woods, a hideaway for drug addicts, prostitution, illicit teenage pornography and shelter from the streets. It is not long before the police get involved. Dan must negotiate his freedom with the tenacious Detective Inspector Morrison, who wants nothing more than to interrogate his prime suspect...
'Cracks in the Pavement' is a darkly funny, sexually graphic Dickensian look at the dizzying heights and gritty depths of a fractured modern society.
All the while, a real life monster lurks in the shadows, waiting for his chance...to strike!
I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Dan has a 9 to 5 office job that he hates, and seems to tolerate nights in the pub with his friends. Every night, pretty much. He's a borderline alcoholic, becoming drunk even when it would serve him much better not to. His ex-girlfriend stumbles into the story, and he sets out on the road to avenge her, though she doesn't seem to really want him to. The place he is lead to is darker than the place he already was, and he finds himself in no end of trouble and it strains every area of his life.
This totally isn't the kind of book that I'd normally go for: I'm all for a bit of darkness in a book, but the blurb struck me as quite seriously dark, but then this didn't really follow through into the book itself. Yeah, there are things going on that most people would rather not think about even though they happen every day all over the world. Drugs, homelessness, sexual assault. Not happy topics, but all tackled in this book, and done well. But it wasn't constant or over-the-top, and a fair portion of it read like just, life.
Indeed, it was generally well written and an easy read. The overall tones was dark, but the nastier bits never lasted too long, which I appreciated. Although, you can tell it's been self-published: there are a few sections that could have been cleaned up a little. When characters are introduced - even minor ones, occasionally - we get quite detailed descriptions of how they look, what they're doing, and sometimes a little potted history of their lives. This is fine when it's one character, but by the time you've got round seven you've kinda lost the train of the story a little. On top of this, there were times when the timeline was a little muddled - some (what I think was) back and forth, but this wasn't made at all clear. These aside, it was well paced and there was always something going on, and I got through the pages without really noticing - always a good sign in my books.
One very good thing is that the central characters do seem like real people (although Dan was the only one with significant or consistent page time). They react to things in ways people would, getting angry with a smattering of swear words rather than effing and blinding left, right and centre as you come across in some media. They have conversations and interactions you can imagine mates sitting in a pub actually having, which isn't something you come across all too often in my experience. Though maybe I'm just not reading the right sort of books. The banter, joking and gentle mockery you find between friends. It is in these times that most of the amusing bits of the book come from. I found myself laughing a little fairly frequently to start with - Dan has exactly my type of humour, very dry - but this soon tapered off as there was less and less for him to mock or joke about. I liked first-half-of-the-book-Dan, not so much second-half-of-the-book-Dan.
Why? Because second-half-Dan didn't make a whole lot of sense. He'd do things, but it wouldn't be explained why. The things he did often didn't even make sense. He did them against his better judgement, but there was no clue given as to what exactly was pushing him to act in that way. Of course he was drunk/hungover most of the time by this point which may have something to do with it. He and Emily had dated in university; it didn't seem to be that serious and must have finished a few years ago, yet he goes off on this epic quest to track down the man who has wronged her. And largely carries it out drunk. You know, the perfect state for trying to infiltrate the gritty underworld of Edinburgh. Which he actually appears to achieve quite easily.
Homelessness was quite a significant factor in this story, not something I've come across in a fiction book before. The different ways they act and the ways other people react to them were particularly well done, both the good and the bad in both respects.
The ending... The ending was interesting, but a little confusing. The mysterious man in the camel coat had been woven through the story in dribs and drabs, giving hints about him but nothing anywhere near approaching concrete. This was a nice touch, adding mystery to the story. The ending answers all the questions you have, though I've got to admit it opened a few more for me as well. Namely 'why?' Things are explained, you understand what's been going on, but not really why they've been going on, or how they've been achieved.
A good book, though probably not for everyone. And definitely not for younger readers!