DISPATCHING BAUDELAIRE by Ken Bruen



Book Reviews
DISPATCHING BAUDELAIRE by Ken Bruen
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May 31, 2004, 16:55

DISPATCHING BAUDELAIRE by Ken Bruen; Sitric Books, 2004

Irishman Ken Bruen has created such hard-boiled page turners as the White Trilogy, The Guards and Blitz. No matter the book, he creates darkly comic worlds where the self-loathing alternates with complete indifference for self and others. Somehow he makes the characters likeable, or at least fascinating, by using short terse thoughts written in short terse chapters using short terse sentences—this isn't to say the writing is rudimentary, simply fitting for the characters in Bruen's world.

Dispatching Baudelaire is an early work of the writer just coming to surface, originally written in the early-'90s then shelved. Whereas Bruen's subsequent work often focuses on cops or ex-cops (Det. Brant of the White Trilogy being a standout), this puts no-name, milquetoast accountant Mike Shaw through the ringer, giving him a taste of money, power and sex.

By the end of this 160-page trade paperback, he's left an impressive trail of carnage that measure up to Bruens later standards. Nonetheless, there are problems: the characters aren't as richly complex and funny as we've come to expect, coming off more as louts and assholes instead of tragically scarred people with good hearts. This is in part due to Bruen's still-emerging skill at the typewriter — he's become much better at filling out the picture on the page with detail, motive and original ideas -- but also because of some of the plot choices he made with the characters, particularly Shaw.

Though not a good starting place, Dispatching Baudelaire does provide a stop-gap to Bruen fans until the prolific author gives us another taste. Those not familiar are encouraged to content themselves catching up, starting with the above named books

– Tad Hendrickson  


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