A review of Act of Fear by Michael Collins

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Act of Fear
By Michael Collins
Duckworth
2014, ISBN: 9780715647264

There is a reflective, humane quality to Michael Collins’s PI novel, which first came out in 1967.

Maybe that’s because his detective, Dan Fortune, is a disabled man who had lost his left arm in his youth. Here, he is looking for a lad who has scarpered after a gangster’s mistress was murdered and a beat cop mugged. Unlikely as it may seem, the two events are connected. Others are looking for the lad, name of Jo-Jo, an’ all, mind and Fortune is warned off from doing the same.

All the characters are terrific, utterly convincing; there is an authentic sense of place: Chelsea, N.Y., a blue-collar neighbourhood where authority figures, police officers most of all, are treated with suspicion; and there’s Fortune’s voice, streetwise but by no means hard-boiled, compassionate yet missing nowt. And with a nice line in epigrams: ‘A man in prison needs a human word.’ ‘Unanswered questions are like lurking monsters.’

Moreover, the novel is as well-constructed as a golden age detective story, and it is only in the penultimate chapter that all the loose ends are knotted neatly. All told, an extremely satisfying mystery.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com

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