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fiction
The Smoke
 
 
Author
Tony Broadbent.
Publisher Felony & Mayhem  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 7.5 x 5.5 x 1 inches
ISBN 9781933397153
Pages/Publication Date 423/2005
Daedalus Item Code 23364
This item is not available.
Description
You just wouldn't believe what an honest Cockney cat burglar has to do to survive sometimes. Having toughed out the War, London in 1947 is now half-crippled by the Peace, suffering the coldest winter in living memory; rations on bread, soap, and underwear; and now watered-down beer. But Jethro doesn't bother complaining, in this debut caper by Tony Broadbent. As a jewel thief, he needs his wits about him when engaged in redistributing the wealth of the upper classes. But demands on Jethro's wits increase considerably when his skills attract unwelcome interest, both from London's crime lords and from His Majesty's Secret Service, which wants him to pull a little job at the Soviet Embassy. This literate mystery from independent New York bookstore publisher Felony & Mayhem is from their "Historical" category: settings from the Ancient World to the 1940s, and everything in between.

"An evocative and witty style distinguishes Broadbent's first novel, set in austere 1947 London (or 'the Smoke,' per the glossary of underworld slang that precedes the main text). Chapter One opens with the marvelous sentence: 'So there I was lying on the roof, seeing through my ears and taking in the sounds of the night, my face pressed against the damp soot-covered tiles, yellowy-grey wisps of fog folding about me like cast-off mortuary shrouds.'... Where Broadbent excels is character, starting with his picaresque and charming rogue of a narrator, Jethro, whose spellbinding exploits as a 'creeper' or cat burglar occupy much of the story. After breaking into the Russian embassy and stealing jewels belonging to the ambassador's wife, Jethro finds himself at odds with several gangs of dangerous people, including MI5, who want his services in retrieving a code book from the Soviets.... Almost as engaging as Jethro are those out to give him trouble, especially Robert Browno of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad, an ogre of a DCI; the gangster Messima, aka the 'Emperor of Soho'; and Chalkie White, Messima's weasel-like henchman. This strong debut marks Broadbent as definitely an author to watch."Publishers Weekly

"'The Smoke,' according to Broadbent's 'Glossary of London Underworld Slang,' is London. This knockout first novel carries the reader deep into the labyrinthine streets of London immediately after World War II, a time of continued rationing, chaotic railways and roadways, and a populace in which just about everyone, from long habit, is constantly figuring how to bend the rules just a bit, or a great deal, to get ahead. Broadbent's hero, cat burglar Jethro, fits perfectly into this post-Blitz zeitgeist. A witty and jaunty opportunist, Jethro serves as combination narrator and tour guide through his own adventures and craft. The first four chapters (arguably one of the most exquisitely suspenseful openings in crime fiction) offer Jethro's take on a 'creep' (slang for a cat burglary) he conducts in the Soviet Embassy. Jethro just barely gets away with the jewels and his life, but he doesn't escape completely. His Majesty's Secret Service learns of the successful heist and coerces Jethro into going back one more time, to lift a ledger that contains a highly sensitive code. Unfortunately for Jethro, others, including London criminals and Soviet secret agents, have thrilled to his expertise as well and watch his every move in order to snare him and the codebook. An anguishing game of cat-and-mouse plays out over the bulk of the book, heightening tension with each move. Remarkable history-mystery, with fascinating background."Booklist (starred review)

 
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