Okay, if you've been reading my reviews you might have noticed by now that I've had a troubled childhood. Look, I could tell you hundreds of stories of how I was wronged in my youth... but even with all the wrongs that I've encountered, I like to think I turned out to be a pretty decent person. I mean, I do my best at living a good life just like the rest of you do.
Yet, for many people, the way they are raised influences their entire life. Due to their upbringing, some never see the good that is hidden among the rotten filth that lies before them. And for others, even when they do see the good, they don't know how to leave their existing lifestyles behind to obtain it.
Which brings us to Smoke by Nigel Bird.
At the beginning of Smoke by Nigel Bird, we read about a young man named Jimmy being humiliated at school by a boy named Sean Mulligan. Jimmy's been stripped down to his privates in front of a group of other kids, left to run home in the buff, and then forced to go back the next day only to find his trousers flying from the flag pole. Jimmy seeks revenge, but things don't go as planned... and I think Jimmy even develops a little sympathy for the bully and his living conditions in the process. Eventually, Jimmy drops out of school, is attacked by a dog, and spends the rest of his life with half of his face hidden behind a mask.
And then there's Carlo. He's obviously a guy with a troubled past... an odd past that left him tied to a railroad track and wheeling around the city in his wheelchair. Carlo happens to be in love with Jimmy's sister, Kylie. Apparently they were a thing before the railroad "incident," and now, Carlo has returned to his old stomping grounds with hopes of reclaiming his relationship with Kylie and making a happy family unit with their son. But, things don't go exactly as planned for Carlo when he finds out that Kylie is still in a relationship with another man, and... he's not the father of her son.
Smoke is an incredible journey through a small block of time being told through the eyes of two unfortunate victims. The lives of Jimmy and Carlo are, unfortunately, woven together through a series of separate events all connected to the same worthless group of people, the Ramsey's. The Ramsey's are two brothers making their wealth by swindling people and setting up big wins in a dog fighting ring. While Kris Ramsey is the meanest of the two, it would be wrong to not let his brother take any blame for past deeds just because he's capable of showing a little emotion at the right time. They're a ruthless twosome connected to an even more sinister group of thugs.
But there's a light at the end of this journey through time. A very small light. When Jimmy gets wind of some information on the Ramsey's money, he sets up a plan that seems rather foolproof in its simplicity. But, again, things don't go as planned for Jimmy and his decisions end up harming those closest to him. Oddly, those same decisions that cause harm, help restore broken spirits and relationships, and they also help Jimmy see what he needs to do to escape the life he's been living.
I think what I loved the most about Smoke, was the author's ability to make me care for all the characters in the story. From Sean Mulligan and his bullying ways to the Ramsey boys endangering the lives of animal for sport, I found myself caring about all of them.
Smoke is a story about drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling addictions, children being failed by the school system, careless love, revenge, and a desire for new beginnings. And it's also a story laced with sorrow, disgust, humor, love, and hope.
Yeah, Smoke by Nigel Bird, is everything a good story should be.
Nigel Bird is about to serve up a 9 course meal. As an appetiser, there’s a morsel (‘Sebille’) at Flashquake. The Starter, ‘No Pain No Gain’ will be in Crime Factory. There’s something fishy in the form of a surprise. A visit to France for mains at Voluted Tales. If you’ve room, it’ll be time for Best Of British Crime Stories. For dessert, Pulp Ink, served up jointly with Chris Rhatigan and / or Blackbird Pie at Grimm Tales. Digestif is a novel that has all the ingredients and requires a bit more time in the oven.