This is the first book of Arnott’s I have read. He Kills Coppers is part of a trilogy of inter-linked stories set during the 1960’s and onwards. They are not directly linked so I do not believe you have to read them in order. This one is in fact the second one. I read this one first because I happen to have the DVD of the TV series ITV made a few years ago and I wanted to read the book first.
The other books are ‘The Long Firm’ and ‘Truecrime’.
He Kills Coppers is loosely inspired by the real Shepard’s Bush murders that took place in 1966. Three policemen were shot dead in the street by Harry Roberts and his gang. Roberts went on the run for three months in Epping Forest before he was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. Billy Porter, who takes the place of Roberts in this novel however takes a different path.
Arnott has a very fluid writing style. To begin with the sentences are often very short and clipped. There is a sense of nearness and immediacy as it often slips into present tense. As the story goes on however, it slows down and becomes more stable – as the characters age with time, the sentences grow longer and less fast paced. It is very well written even though I don’t generally like this kind of writing style. Arnott gives it a very gritty, dirty and realistic feel.
The three narrators each have a distinctive voice so even though their different parts are not distinctively marked it’s fairly easy to know who you’re reading. None of them are particularly likeable and I felt, none were really developed as much as I would have liked. Each chapter is fairly short and neatly broken up between the three narrators.
Whilst the story is centred around this cop murder, it is much more to do with the wider perversion and corruption within society – particularly that of the police. In the eighties I believe they cleaned themselves up and tried to reduce that violent, antagonistic reputation they had developed for themselves.. Reading this very much made me think about the TV series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes.
It seemed a hard line to live by when there was so much corruption going on. If you wanted to get on in the force it seemed you had to be a little corrupt, receive pay offs from the odd gangsta. Frank, the young ambitious detective wants to do what is right but in the end accept the easy route to promotion.
He Kills Coppers takes a broad sweep over of this time in history, rather then really going that deep into this part of history. I’m sure my interest was only held through watching certain police dramas on TV like Life on Mars and Inspector George Gently.
The second narrator – the tabloid journalist I felt was a slightly pointless, wasted character with a storyline that didn’t seem to go anywhere. He started of following the police murders but then his storyline petered out. His character and potential storyline could however have been very interesting in a story of his own.
Overall, I enjoyed it but I’m not too sure if I’ll bother with the other books. I would have preferred a more in-depth story about police corruption however that is only personal preference. As often, I think how I feel about books is down to my mood at the time of reading it.
It has been interesting reading it at this certain point of time however. Right now The News of the World has come to a sticky end over phone hacking and the Police have been once again shown to be taking back handers from journalists in exchange for phone numbers and information. None of this is really news or surprising, it’s just that the government and the Police have finally been forced to actually do something about it.
You have Rupert Murdoch who has wielded seemingly unlimited power over those who should have been in power - much the same as some of the characters you will see in He Kills Coppers.
I don’t mean to say there are direct correlations, but still rather interesting to be reading this book at this time.
Anyway, back to the book – if you like fast paced gritty crime fiction and don’t mind the odd realistic use of swearing then I recommend you give this book a go.