Ex-KGB agent Konstantin – most definitely an international man of murky mystery – has somehow washed up on the shores of England’s seedy Kent coast, and he’s carving a niche for himself among the lowlives and street-scum of a dilapidated seaside town. This is effectively Konstantin’s origin story, told in a series of seven interlocking episodes.
The action arrives in short bursts of rapid-fire writing that rattles from one bruising punch-up to the next, as Konstantin carves out a niche for himself in the backstreets. The result is an absurdly entertaining story, delivered in easy to digest segments, with a satisfying side-dish of snide humour. Author Keith Nixon stitches a mean streak of acerbic wit into every situation, and gleefully impales his criminal stereotypes on words which are whittled to a fine edge.
That’s not to say that Russian Roulette is all vodka and giggles. Far from it; there’s a serious moral message to almost every episode in which some seriously creepy scum receives righteous comeuppance. Nixon also introduces us to a superb supporting cast including Fidelity, the sex-worker with a distinctly forceful personality and some sad secrets, and the mysterious Mr Lamb from British intelligence.
We also meet a stack of thugs, ruffians and political pondslime from central casting who are a little less successful. They have daft nicknames, limited capabilities, and pretty much exist simply so Konstantin can demonstrate his uncompromising attitude and considerable skill at unarmed combat. The lovelorn vicar was fun, mind you.
An inventive blend of gritty Britcrime and international thriller, Russian Roulette sets the scene for a must-read series of longer stories. I especially adored the descriptions of Konstantin’s rattletrap Royal Enfield motorcycle, a machine of hidden depths, indeed…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Russian Roulette by Keith Nixon is available at Amazon
THE STONER STORIES: more short stabs and quick thrills with an unconventional contract killerFind THE STONER STORIES at Amazon