‘Return Run’ is a rapid read of old-fashioned thuggery and back-street skulduggery. Set in Northern Ireland it avoids any political intrigue and concentrates instead on traditional criminal activities – robbery, assault, conspiracy, betrayal – with a bad boy protagonist taking the lead. Blake is a professional thief, a loner typical of the genre, the kind of guy who rarely starts a fight but always finishes them.
But Blake’s far from heartless, as the second thread in this short story reveals. While planning a three-handed heist with a pal and an inside man, Blake learns that an ex-girlfriend is banged up inside on a murder charge. He can’t bring himself to believe that she’s guilty and soon discovers that there’s more to her ‘self-defence’ story than meets the eye. But before he can figure out how to help her, his little bit of larceny turns out to be far from straightforward when one of his accomplices makes a grab for the cash…
This is a punchy tale, told plainly, with plenty of pace. It has the feel of an old episode of The Sweeney about it – blokes get lumped over the head and conveniently fall unconscious; guilty gang bosses conveniently keep incriminating evidence to hand. Author Simon Maltman wraps two intriguing plots around each other and brings the whole thing to a satisfactory conclusion within the tight confines of a short story. There are a few typos and grammar glitches which tighter editing could’ve tidied up, but nothing which disrupts an hour’s easy reading. The violence isn’t graphic or described in explicit detail, so there’s nothing to turn a sensitive stomach.
We learn little about Blake in Return Run, but this has the flavour of an introductory episode so I suspect we’ll be hearing more from him in future.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Return Run by Simon Maltman is available as an ebook