I don’t read many books that claim membership of a genre. In my humble opinion, a work of fiction should aspire to create its own world, describe it, communicate it and then live in it. I want a book’s characters to inhabit the events that are portrayed, events that are clearly influenced by the character’s presence, but which are also usually bigger than any individual’s contribution. Wars don’t exist unless people fight them. Crimes are not committed without criminals. Love stories are made by lovers and ghosts don’t exist.
For instance, in my own book, Mission, there are four wars, but it’s not a war novel. There are at least three love stories, but it’s not a romance. There are several deaths, one of which is a murder, but it’s not a crime novel or a thriller. And then there’s a character who comes back from the dead to haunt an old man, but it’s not a ghost story or a fantasy. In short, it’s Mission, a novel set in Kenya.
So I approached Ken Scott’s crime thriller, A Million Would Be Nice, as a reader unused to the genre’s codes and forms.
Unlike general or literary fiction, I recognise that learning what happens in A Million Would Be Nice is one of the main reasons for reading the book. My review, therefore, cannot reveal too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that there has been a bank robbery. It was an inside job and the scenario for its execution is carefully concocted and inventively created. The perpetrator gets away with it and scarpers with the loot to live it up in Spain.
On an apparently separate thread, we meet Donavan Smith, a quite incredibly vile piece of humanity from Newcastle, of which I hope he is not representative. He’s a successful young thing, a kind of nouveau riche moron, who apparently defines his identity by surrounding himself with requisite items of designer consumption, clearly knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. He has everything, does our Donavan, but he is never satisfied. He wants more.
There isn’t a lot to endear us to Donavan Smith. He’s a misogynist, and occasionally indulges in some quite bizarre behaviour in the bedroom. He justifies everything with quotes from the Bible, a source of justification that was beaten into him by an abusing mother. He lets nothing get in his way. He has his ideas, knows how to achieve them and then ruthlessly destroys anything that might resist. In some ways, he is quite creative.
But one of his conquests becomes an accomplice, because she has inside information about that money that went missing in the bank raid. He needs her and together they visit people all over the prestigious bits of Europe, Paris, Cannes, London, the Costas, Newcastle, to pursue and realise their dream. And believe me, this Donavan is nothing if not resourceful and he certainly has a knack when it comes to making things happen.
The story moves at a fast pace. Different characters are drawn into the thread and many are inevitably cast aside by Donavan Smith, our single-minded, calculating anti-hero. And that is as much as I will relate. A Million Would be Nice claims to be a crime thriller, and a crime thriller is exactly what it is, fast paced, and packed with greed, obsession and ruthlessness.
Ken Scott’s own background as an employee of a major British bank provided him with much of the detail surrounding the original robbery. Since the back cover of the book shows him, like the robber in the book, living it up in Spain, I can only hope that this is as far as the similarity goes.
A Million Would be Nice will appeal to readers of thrillers and crime fiction. It has all the elements you would expect and, in the relationship between Donavan and his mother, perhaps something extra as well.
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A Million Would be Nice