Review: Revolver by Duane Swierczynski

Revolver.jpgDuane Swierczynski examines the reverberations of the slaying of two policemen in mid-1960s Philadelphia in his latest white-knuckle thriller, Revolver. Written with his trademark ruthless efficiency, and coupled with an ambitious structure that sees three linked storylines being played out over three different years – 1965, 1995 and 2015 –  at its core, Revolver is about a city laden with racial tension, and the resultant (and incendiary) consequences. But with Swierczynski focusing on his prose’s delectable sparseness and sheer narrative thrust, the novel lacks essential gravitas. What we’re left with is a brisk page-turner, undeniably stylish, but lightweight.

Revolver opens with two Philly police detectives – a black man and a while man – being gunned down in a working-class bar. The man presumed to be their killer was never convicted for the crime – instead he went to prison for another crime, and was paroled thirty years later; thus becoming the target of Jim Walczak, the dead while cop’s son, who is now a cop himself. Twenty years later, Jim’s estranged daughter Audrey – an aspiring crime-scene investigator with attitude to burn – reopens her grandfather’s case, and her findings have deadly repercussions. Each chapter rotates between protagonists, and while this initially feels choppy, the narrative quickly gets into its flow. It helps that Swierczynski keeps his chapters short and sharp – readers won’t get lost with various plot threads – but characters can feel a tad rote.

My main issue with Revolver is its insubstantial focus on the black side of the racial conflict plaguing the city. I get it – this is a novel about a murder’s lingering effects on a family who just so happen to be white – but given the importance of the race to the overall plot, it feels undercooked. Not that the book needs an additional black protagonist; I’m not suggesting that Swierczynski should’ve shoehorned a “black perspective” into the story. But there could’ve been a few nuanced inclusions of the racial disparity plaguing Philly throughout the text to clarify circumstances.

That gripe aside, Revolver provides everything long-time readers of Duane Swierczynski want: taut prose, smart twists, and supreme page-turnability. He remains a must-read author, and one of the genre’s shining stars.

ISBN: 9781444754247
Format: Paperback  (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Mulholland Books
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publish Date: 28-Jul-2016
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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