I recently had the pleasure of receiving an advanced copy of Darren Dash’s latest novel to read and review. Here are my thoughts…
Molls Like it Hot is the fifth novel by Darren Dash, the eclectic alter ego of bestselling Young Adult author Darren Shan. This latest title from the macabre maestro is a contemporary noir thriller about a London cabbie who gets dragged into the blood-soaked criminal underworld of Britain’s capital city.
The story is told from the point of view of Eyrie Brown, a wisecracking taxi driver and ex-servicemen who leads a relatively quiet life, revolving around his work and caustically comical banter sessions with his tight circle of friends. He is basically a 21st century Luddite, owning just two pieces of technology, a smartphone which he seldom uses to its full capability and a TV so old it will probably turn up on the next series of Antiques Roadshow.
One dark and rainy night Eyrie is driving his black cab through the submerged streets of London when he hears a series of gunshots. Your average cabbie would plant their foot firmly on the accelerator and head for safety but Eyrie being the unflappable streetwise bruiser he is, sticks around to see what transpires. Moments later, a smartly dressed if not slightly weather-beaten gunmen emerges from an alleyway, weapon in hand. Without a hint of fear or trepidation Eyrie offers the man a lift before her Majesty’s constabulary can put in an appearance. The shooter hops inside and the two men strike up a conversation. When Eyrie recognises the make of his passenger’s gun the man realises that Eyrie isn’t half as green as he first assumed. The sinister yet stylish gangster introduces himself as Lewis Brue, pays Eyrie handsomely for his trouble then tells him to look him up if he should ever need any work.
Eyrie takes his pocket full of readies and thinks of his encounter with the brutal Mr Brue as nothing more than an exciting anecdote to entertain his mates. But when one of the gangster’s henchmen breaks into Eyrie’s flat and invites him to a meeting with his boss, Eyrie’s curiosity gets the better of him. In the back room of a grotty North London bookie’s Lewis Brue offers the cabbie £25,000 to act as guardian and chaperone to a girl for the weekend. Eyrie is an old hand who knows better than to ask questions and being in no position to refuse a payday of this magnitude he accepts the job.
In due course a mysterious young woman named Toni Curtis arrives at Eyrie’s flat and his once simplistic existence is immediately transformed.
Molls Like it Hot is a fast-paced, cinematic unflinchingly gritty piece of modern day noir that is both sophisticated and pulpy. The story pulsates with compelling characters, ultra-violent action and the sort of gob-smacking twists which Dash is renowned for.
Within the pages of this high octane yet surprisingly compact novel Dash shows off his multifarious writing gifts to exquisite effect. He crafts a brilliantly layered protagonist in the shape of Eyrie Brown, a fearless, hard-hitting badass with hidden depths that are gradually revealed throughout the narrative, giving the character a carefully defined three dimensional personality which sets him apart from your typical action hero. In Toni Curtis the author has created his most seductively psychotic female lead yet. She is a human hand grenade of danger, unpredictability and sex appeal, and God help anyone brave enough to pull her pin. Another weapon in Dash’s creative arsenal, which he puts to expert use, is a bone-dry sense of humour. Although Dash/Shan is often rightly praised for his command of the cliffhanger and hair-raising horror his subtle, pitch-perfect wit particularly in this book is equally worthy of plaudits.
A tip of the hat must also be given to all the references and homages to several timeless pieces of cinema, nestled like gemstones in amongst the broader narrative. From classics like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and the 1947 crime drama The Devil Thumbs a Ride to a certain Billy Wilder picture. This sort of first-rate film-buffery does not go unnoticed here at Books, Films and Random Lunacy, bravo Mr Dash.
Molls Like it Hot is a pedal-to-the-metal taxi tour around Eyrie Brown’s London, taking in all the unsettling sights, crazed villains and bloodthirsty action the city has to offer. The exhilarating plot, snappy storytelling and filmic atmosphere fill the reader’s mind with vivid imagery that lends itself perfectly to adaptation.
This cracking little novel would be prime pickings for any TV or Netflix exec looking to make a hit gangland show to rival the likes of Peaky Blinders.
On the whole this new Dashing yarn is a triumph, my only quibble being I wish it could be slightly longer giving us even more thrills to enjoy but to paraphrase a famous movie quote, No book is perfect.