Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Edi's Spotlight: Low Town The Straight Razor Cure by Daniel Polansky

Introduction

Today I review the debut novel The Straight Razor Cure (UK, hc, August 18th 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-1444721294] by Daniel Polansky. A thank you goes to publisher Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a review copy.
Before you get confused let me tell you that the book has been published in US by Doubleday with title Low Town (US, hc, August 16th 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-0385534468].

And as I reviewed the UK edition I wanted to post my review on UK publishing date! But as you can see I failed by nearly one week.


Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store.
Here we go:
The Straight Razor Cure
(UK, hc, August 18th 2011) [ISBN-13: 978-1444721294]
by Daniel Polansky

"Welcome to Low Town. Here, the criminal is king. The streets are filled with the screeching of fish hags, the cries of swindled merchants, the inviting murmurs of working girls. Here, people can disappear, and the lacklustre efforts of the guard ensure they are never found.

Warden is an ex-soldier who has seen the worst men have to offer; now a narcotics dealer with a rich, bloody past and a way of inviting danger. You`d struggle to find someone with a soul as dark and troubled as his.

But then a missing child, murdered and horribly mutilated, is discovered in an alley.

And then another.

With a mind as sharp as a blade and an old but powerful friend in the city, he`s the only man with a hope of finding the killer.

If the killer doesn`t find him first." [Source]

My Expectations
I expected a dark and gritty novel with sweat and gore, investigative work in a town with a high crime rate.


Theme

Deep in the core it is the story of man who is the reflection of his surrounding in search of the answer for one question: The meaning of life.
Let me say so if you know Low Town in all its facets, the people, the houses, alleys and streets, the history, the smell, dreams, hope, disappointment, violence and , and, and ... then you know the character of the Warden and vice versa.

And Daniel Polansky fathom the Warden and Low Town buy using an incident which triggers the Warden deep down in the locked ruins of his childhood. On the surface the reader is confronted with a kind of detective noir story which leads the way to discover Low Town and The Warden.


Setting

Daniel Polansky presents one of main antagonists - the town Low Town - as an medieval European coined town. You know this kind of town where criminal brotherhoods which are mingled with upper class are the secret rulers, where the content of chamber pots is directly disposed on the streets, where cut purser belong to markets like a bell to a church.

And there is a world outside of Low Town. The information we get about the worlddepends on the Warden's past. Anyway there is religion, a kind of magic and there are supernatural events.

The depiction of Low Town is excellent. It opens the matrix in your brain which transport you directly into the streets. Stay away from dark alleys and don't forget your nose clip just in order to avoid to clean your favorite reading chair from your potential vomit.

If you cut out and put together all the town description snippets you could easily use it for a pen and paper role playing game.

Low Town is the secret star of the book. It is what makes the book unique.


Plot

The plot has been revealed with the blurb. The Warden in the search of someone who murders children. Of course there are twist and turns and often the reader does not know more than the Warden himself. If you read very carefully you will have a clue how it will end.

But for me the plot is just the golden thread which lead the reader through the personality of the Warden and the personality of Low Town which is for me the secret star of the book.
On a second sight this book is more a psychogram of the Warden manifested in his surrounding.
And drugs, violence, sweat and gore, distrust, cattiness but also trust, love, friendship and a bit of hope are the ingredients of the blood which pulsate through the veins of the story.


Character(s)

The Warden is the as main antagonist of the story. His personalty is the reflection of Low Town. Like a description of a house or an alleyway find their expression in the depths of the Warden. The more we get to know about the Warden the more we get to know about Low Town . After reading the book you seem to know the Warden like a psychologist his patient after several sessions.

Which means that Daniel Polansky did a great job with the characterization of the Warden.

Of course there are more people and the author delivers information about them in relation to their importance. Sometimes you get more information about a character within a few sentences where other authors need a page or two.


Style

The style is without frills, sometimes it punch you right in the face. Dialogue is brisk and on the spot. Daniel Polansky is a word juggler on its on. You find a lot of vocabulary which you would not expect to be used in a fantasy novel. And once a while you will be delighted with a harsh and dry humor which stitch you from a dark and moldy gap.


The Inevitable

The Straight Razor Cure is a strong debut and a must read for everyone who is looking for a good blend of detective noir and fantasy where the detective noir elements outbalance the fantasy elements like the supernatural/magic.

For me it was a great read but not my novel of the year because my relationship to the Warden was mostly cold and distant.

Anyway I look forward to the next book by Daniel Polansky.


4 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds captivating - okay, just found it in the iBookstore.
Why the different titles? I would think that would be confusing to readers.

ediFanoB said...

@Alex,

it is captivating.
There are different publisher in UK and US. And it is up to publisher to decide about the title.

Like you I find it confusing.

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