If you’re after British crime fiction that’s hard boiled and noir with a touch of black humour, then Jellyfish could be for you – if you’re not, try it anyway.
“Frank Bale. Private Investigator.”
That’s how I always introduce myself. I never add the ‘and Process Server’ bit, though, at times, that would give a truer representation of the facts.
Once a promising young solicitor enjoying the high life in Savile Row suits, Frank Bale now scrapes a living on the mean streets of London, principally working as a process server – with a Marlowe fantasy to keep him going:
I rang the doorbell, still wondering: goon or dame? That was the fantasy, the thought that behind the next door may lurk a goon with a gun or a dame with legs. It brought a frisson of sun-baked Californian menace to the wearying trudge down streets as cold and grey and wet as a drowned man’s shadow, between doors that only opened, if they opened at all, on the desperate and despairing.
When, working into the small hours, Frank discovers a murdered girl in an alley, he can’t believe his luck; stumbling upon a corpse is exactly what happens to the private eyes of fiction. Only this isn’t fiction, and his luck is generally bad, so he decides to simply return home, go to bed, and leave the police to get on with it.
Frank hates the police. Likewise, the police aren’t too fond of him, especially since he’s become the chief suspect in their murder investigation.
It’s not just the police; the entire world seems to have it in for Frank. Even his one-time mentor and friend, Gus, is rapidly going off him, especially since learning of Frank’s assignation with Mrs Knights, the soon to be ex-wife of one of Gus’s long-term clients. And the client, Knights, despises him, especially, and he doesn’t hold back in showing it – with the helping hands (and feet) of a couple of tame thugs.
Feeling battered, both physically and psychologically, Frank decides to fight back, taking on the world in the only way he can, turning his fantasy into action armed with nothing but native guile and intuition.
And the Investigator’s Fallacy: the belief that my native guile and intuition counted.
Haunted by the corpse, finding comfort only in dreams of Mrs Knights, Frank scours South London’s dark nether regions, disturbing the jellyfish that lurk there. And the jellyfish react, striking back at Frank, their choice of weapons accelerating in deadliness: fists to golf clubs to guns.
Can Frank keep himself alive long enough to find the girl’s killer and mete out his own particular style of justice – and arrange a second date with Mrs K?
Any of a number of heartless, brainless creatures of the deep with cannibalistic tendencies and a sting. The stings range from irritating to lethal. Collective n.Smack
With his debut novel, Jellyfish, featuring Frank Bale with a Philip Marlowe delusion, Lev D. Lewis follows in the PI tradition of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Kinky Friedman and Laurence Bloch, but adds his very own British twist.