Book covers






Sam Goldwyn once said that a movie should begin with an earthquake and finish with a climax.  Led To The Wrong begins with a kidnapping and that leads to robbery, murder and more than a few worried people.  Some of them avoid a dangerous fate, and others are, to quote the title of the book, led to the wrong.    This is the fourth novel by Jim Lawler to be published by Red Rattle Books, and so far he is not showing any signs of flagging.  Each of the four books stands apart from the rest but Led To The Wrong has the usual treachery and violence that is the Lawler trademark.  Joe is the main character and he is a fascinating mix of two-fisted hard-case and strange decency.  There are not only plenty of twists and surprises in Led To The Wrong but also a glimpse of the tough other world of modern Britain.  The Northern realism, though, does not mitigate the fun.  Most readers will enjoy the conclusion and close the book with a sly and satisfied smile on their faces. 

Joe is a hard case bouncer who tries to keep out of trouble.  His sister has been selling dope for the local gangsters but is now in their debt.  To protect his sister from the gangsters Joe becomes involved in the kidnapping at the beginning of the book.  Joe and his life change to something very different.  Joe now has powerful friends and money but obligations.  There is also the temptation of more wealth and freedom but that means Joe relying on people who cannot be trusted and him betraying dangerous gangsters.

Lawler mixes sharp cynical dialogue and hard-hitting set pieces in his usual way.   It is not a major scene in the book but I liked the fight that involved an apple and two oranges.  It is not the only scene in the book that is different from normal fare.  As the book proceeds, we become familiar with Joe, the sister that he needs to protect and the people who want to control what he does next.   Joe has to not only use his fists but to think things through.   The choices he makes will risk his life and the sister that he has pledged to protect.  

The prose in Led To The Wrong is spare and lean but has its stylish moments.  Lawler lets his characters do what they do best.  They talk, tell lies and fight each other.   All of the Jim Lawler crime novels are rooted in a theme that complements the thriller elements.  His first two books looked at alienated and solitary but very different males.  The plot of his third book was shaped by trust and dependency.  Led To The Wrong has characters that are all obliged in different ways and difficult circumstances to be loyal.  The book, though, can be enjoyed on any level.  Although it really does need to be read until the end, there are many satisfying moments along the way.

By Irene Keith