Tuesday, February 11, 2014
A Review: Fight, by Brent Coffey
Many books that I review end up receiving a star rating in the vicinity of three. These books are not terrible, but they are not particularly remarkable either. It’s not surprising that most books fall into this region of the spectrum. As a reviewer, this leaves me room to move when I am presented with a book that stands out from the crowd. Fight, by Brent Coffey, is one of those. Here is a writer who knows how to set a scene, who knows how to build suspense, who knows how to give out tantalising hints to the reader; and who knows how to surprise the reader.
Fight tells the story of Gabe Adelaide, the adopted son of a Boston Mafia boss; of Bruce Hudson, the District Attorney who tried and failed to prosecute him; of August, the little boy who witnessed his parents’ death, and whom Hudson and his wife want to adopt. Around these characters is woven a fascinating story of intrigue, plots, deceit and misunderstanding. The main characters in this story are complex, many-layered, flawed and utterly believable. As much as this is a mafia-style thriller, it is also an exploration of how life’s events shape character. It is a story of loss and redemption. Within the story the characters carry their burdens, but learn surprising lessons from life. In presenting some (but by no means all) of the minor characters (particularly the ‘bad guys’) Coffey occasional falls back on stereotypes. But this is not at all true of the main characters or many of the other minor characters. They behave and think in ways that are entirely believable.
I had a few quibbles with some of the minor plot points in the story, which were unconvincing. However these were never central to the plot, and could easily have been addressed. For example, it was not believable that the men who were sent at one point to kill Gabe would decide to report to their father, a powerful mafia boss, that they had been successful when they were not. He would (and did) quickly learn the truth. This was not at all important to the plot and I wondered why the author felt it necessary to include it. In a second example, the way one character was dispatched relied upon some questionable chemistry. There were a few other similar issues. I also wondered why the author had chosen the name ‘Adelaide’ for the main mafia family, when they were clearly intended to have Italian roots. This incongruity bothered me a little, and seemed completely unnecessary. The choice of St Knox for the name of the hospital also struck me as odd. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a St Knox. Knox is a name associated with Scottish Calvinism and is unlikely to be used for an ostensibly Catholic hospital. Attention to some of these details would have added at least half a star to my rating.
There were also a few grammatical issues and typographical errors, which seemed to increase in frequency as the story progressed, but which never became a major concern.
For the faint-hearted I should mention that there is some graphic violence and strong language to be found here. None of it, in my opinion, was excessive or gratuitous.
This was a book that I really enjoyed reading. There is plenty of action and suspense for those who like that kind of thing. However, there is also a depth to the story and characterisation, and a quality to the writing, that does not often accompany it.