To put this out there, I am not ordinarily a crime reader. Whether it’s true crime, fictionalised crime, or somewhere in between, it’s not my go-to genre. While I do still appreciate a good crime tale, it’s just not a genre that I gravitate towards. If you have read the blurb for Paul Lafferty’s Down the Lane (it’s just above if you skipped down to my review), you’ll know that if it is one thing, it is definitely crime fiction.
To get my negativity out of the way quickly, I need to flag that the formatting in the eBooks I was provided for this review was a mess, with most pages (or screens, if you will) featuring multiple sentences broken across different lines. While I can’t speak for the paperback, nor confirm whether these issues exist within the final product, the formatting issues, especially when combined with some proofreading errors (on their own, there aren’t enough of these errors to be a major issue), made my reading of Down the Lane more difficult than I would have appreciated.
Before moving on, I would also like to touch upon some of the characterisations and language used. The female characters, with the exception of Beatrice (or Queen Bea) are treated as little more than props for the lead character, Doc, to sleep around with, with the narrative focusing on their looks over their personalities and traits as human beings. There is also a bit of homophobic and racist language used throughout the novel. While I believe the female characters could—and should—have been more clearly defined by Lafferty, I am willing to concede the culture depicted in Down the Lane is one where sexism, homophobia and racism reign.
At an estimated 233 pages in eBook form, Down the Lane is not a hefty read, and largely uses the space well. It takes about four chapters (of 34) to reach the inciting incident, and Lafferty could have cut the epilogue to one chapter. I also felt that at points, the author did not trust the “show, don’t tell” rule; on a number of occasions, something is shown to the reader, for the narration to double down and explain it. While the first half of the book is paced slowly, as it enters its second half, it kicks into high gear with the pace moving quickly, and throwing out twists and turns left, right and centre.
The male characters in Down the Lane are well-written and fleshed out, particularly Doc, the point of view character in this world, and his best friend, Viking. The two characters bouncing off each other was a joy to read. In writing Down the Lane in the first person, Lafferty has made a great choice. Doc’s internal monologue through this humanises him and his behaviour; the lead character being aware of his flaws and the decisions he has made.
One of the most common pieces of advice given to new authors is to “write what you know.” It is evident throughout Down the Lane that Lafferty has done that very thing. His bio, included on the book’s back cover (included above this review), outlines his history of growing up in Niagara Falls and working as a bouncer, DJ, manager, and bartender in strip clubs. This results in a book that knows what it is talking about, with all the details right down to the minutiae, feeling real. Being an Australian, I have never seen Niagara Falls, but Lafferty’s descriptions, from the seedy underbelly to the area’s layout, made me feel like a local.
Despite its pacing issues, the crime scene in Down the Lane felt realistic. While I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I do not gravitate to crime fiction (or, given Lafferty’s credentials, some mix of reality and fiction), I did find myself enjoying the ride.If the thinly written female characters, along with general sexism, racism and homophobia depicted aren’t enough to stop yourself from enjoying this book, and you’re able to move past the threat of formatting issues, Down the Lane is a solid read. This, and the issues outlined above are preventing me from making this a solid recommendation, however, there is enough to enjoy in this novel that I am on board for its sequel, Down the Lane: Brantford, due for release this December.
We sat down and got a tray – thirty small glasses of draft. Without even speaking, we both downed three in a row. I took off my jacket and put some money in the jukebox. Fucking country music. Didn’t matter, I just didn’t want anyone listening to us talk.
Viking, on the other hand, loved it, whooping and hollering along with the words. Fucking hillbilly. We downed a few more before we got talking.Down the Lane, Chapter 17: “Now What?”
Down the Lane was provided by the author for the purposes of an honest review.
Down the Lane is available in both physical and eBook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).
You can follow Paul Lafferty online, via:
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