by Tom Batt
Once again bank robber Donovan Carter and his crew are just one step ahead of veteran Met Police detective Mike Palmer. Palmer has spent nearly two years trying to arrest Carter and he’s had enough.
He’s not the only one. Palmer’s ex-wife is taking their daughter to America and Palmer desperately needs big money to fight for custody. Donovan Carter also needs big money to finally repay an old favor. Could the two sworn enemies work together on Donovan’s final heist?...
Enemies Closer is a blisteringly good little crime novel. Fast-paced, multi-perspective, and tightly plotted. Within the first few paragraphs, Batt capably summons the weary, emotionally crumpled Mike Palmer, with his trudging disappointment and disaster of a life. He is the typical seen-it-all cop, bitterly accepting of the fact that Donovan Carter and his ilk live very different lifestyles.
Batt’s prose is spare, lean, yet sharply detailed and focused. He swiftly sketches the characters and their involvements. All of which are credible and authentic. Batt has not shied away from writing keenly observed yet fairly prototypical personalities, but they are exactly who would inhabit this story and they are pitched perfectly.
Donovan has the right amount of surface suavity but, as the novel progresses, the reader becomes aware that he is wrestling with his own duplicities. He and Palmer are more similar than they care to admit, with a shared personal history that runs deep, causing judgment to become clouded.
Of the two, Donovan is more controlled and Palmer becomes increasingly desperate causing some recklessly poor decision-making on the Detective’s part, initially prompting the volte-face plot pivot shortly after a quarter through the novel.
Once Palmer has sealed his fate, the narrative hurtles the reader into a series of nail-biting switchback twists and turns, all of which are believable and unfolded at breakneck speed. It’s edge-of-the-seat stuff, and Batt capably plays with reader expectations and character sympathies.
The grizzled old gangster, Perry, was amusingly depicted and DI Jade Edmonds, who possesses the only moral compass in the story, was strangely unlikable. Batt has depicted her with subtly irritating qualities that cleverly skew reader empathy or support.
The tension between her and Palmer is absolutely gripping, and it’s interesting that her domestic life begins to crumble along with that of the two men. Although a horrible inevitability creeps in as the final heist draws near, it’s anyone’s game and the reader has no idea which way or for whom the cards will fall.
The conclusion is nicely ambiguous and slightly open-ended with each main character having made or been forced to make, choices that will affect the remainder of their lives, certainly in Palmer’s case.
As with Batt’s earlier novel, Street Siren*, his narrative has a strong filmic quality, with an intense appeal to visualization. Indeed, if there were such a thing as the literary love child of any early Guy Ritchie film and The Thomas Crown Affair, Enemies Closer would certainly be that offspring. Highly recommended.
*Click here for my review of Street Siren.