Bane of Kings Reviews Daniel Polansky’s first novel, Low Town – The Straight Razor Cure, published by Hodder & Stoughton, called Low Town in the USA.
“An impossible to put down read, showing how dark fantasy can truly be.” ~The Founding Fields
I seem to be reading a lot of fantasy novels lately, don’t I? Well, if you’re a fan of Fantasy, then I must say that Low Town, the debut by Daniel Polansky, will hopefully capture your interest, just as my interest… was well, captured.
Low Town is very much a noir crime thriller set in a fantasy world, in a similar way to The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett, despite the fact that Low Town is quite clearly fantasy.
I should start by saying that I prefer the UK title, after all, who wouldn’t? Although longer, The Straight Razor Cure tells you a lot more about Polansky’s novel than Low Town, which seems just bland and dull.
In Low Town, the place where the novel is set, criminals and lawbreakers rule. The streets are populated with “the screeching of fish hags, the cries of swindled merchants and the inviting murmurs of working girls. Here people can disappear, and the lacklustre efforts of the guard ensure they are never found.”
Now add ex-soldier Warden, a narcotics dealer, whose soul is darker and troubled than most people, even in Low Town. He is the main character of the novel, and indeed – this particular story is told entirely in first person.
But when a missing child, slain and disfigured is found in alley, and not long afterwards, another is found.
And Warden becomes the city’s only hope of finding the killer, that is – if the killer doesn’t find him first.
Low Town is a very strong first novel, and I think it’s high on the list for best debut of 2011, right up there with Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick out of the books that I’ve read & reviewed so far.
Warden is perhaps an unfamiliar main character that many fantasy fans are used to, as this guy doesn’t give a damn about the moral effects of stabbing someone in the back or slitting their throat.
The action speeds along fantastically as Polansky manages to create a gripping mystery, which is what few people manage to achieve when they’re combining the works of fantasy and crime.
However, as much as I want to give Low Town top marks, I can’t, because although there is a wide range of supporting cast, many of whom are recognisable, they are lacking depth. This is generally a problem when I read first person novels though, mainly because we’re confined to just one person’s viewpoint.
To use the old cliché here, Low Town really was a page turner, and I struggled to put this novel down, reading it entirely in one sitting on a Sunday afternoon.
Although Low Town is impossible to put down, you’ll find yourself guessing the outcome of the novel at least halfway through it – and that’s another flaw, but don’t let that stop you from buying this book. I eagerly await the return to Low Town, and I look forward to seeing where Polansky takes the reader, and where the series develops from here.
I also like the fact that Low Town isn’t a particularly long book to read, and you don’t spend absolutely ages reading it, and even though the conclusion is predictable, it is a solid one.