Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
Where does one start with A Serpent Uncoiled? We have a missing mobster, a bizarre spiritualist society. And three deaths, linked by a chilling forensic detail. Last but no means least we also have Dan Shaper.
Dan a former enforcer in London’s criminal underworld was on the verge of a nervous breakdown before he decided to chuck it all in a become a private investigator. However, the only way he is staying alive is with the cocktail of drugs he has floating around his system. He hopes to find the opportunity to undergo detox just after he has finished sorting out a case in a brothel are put on hold when he is dragged into a new case by his old masters.
The case appears initially to be a standard one but there is a serial killer on the loose and the potential victim is not the innocent person he first appears to be. He claims not only to be over 1000 years old but a messiah to boot! It is up to Shaper to ensure that he is not murdered.
A Serpent Uncoiled is one of those books that confounds you in a really good way and it drags you the reader into a London that is more depraved and sordid than one can imagine. Just as you thought that you know or you think you know what is going to happen next then the author throws you a curve ball that shakes up your perspective. Certainly my kind of book.
One has a certain amount of sympathy for his main protagonist, as he is not an intrinsically bad person. The problem with him is that he has loads of baggage on both sides of the law, which he finds hard to relinquish. Shaper is amusing, cynical, and vulnerable and certainly damaged goods that needsto redeem himself in his own eyes. Even his characterisation of the rest of the cast leaves you with a feeling of being knocked for six.
There are noticeable nods to the convention of hardboiled detective fiction, but this is about as an original a novel as one could possibly imagine. Spurrier’s writing technique is multifaceted; he has a rich glossary of words, which he uses with a refreshing approach. The unabashed violence will at times leave you astounded but not bowed. The twists and turns in this book make for great reading.
A Serpent Uncoiled is a great book, but not for the faint of heart. Grim and gritty atmospheric it is certainly for those who like their stories with verve. With great prose and dialogue, Spurrier had created a novel that will I hope become a classic.
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