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Act of Fear

By Michael Collins

Duckworth, 2014

ISBN: 9780715647264

Act of Fear

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.

The publisher’s description of the novel can be read here.