Brendan Lavin is an ex-con; he’s out after doing both the crime and the time, and the only thing he wants to do now is keep his head down and make sure his small bakery stays afloat. But it’s difficult. Rent prices are climbing, his suppliers refuse to help out and Brendan’s losing customers by the day.
His salvation comes in the form of a nightmare. Tommy, an ex gang member strolls into Brendan’s bakery, requesting scones, muffins and crullers (something I’ve never heard of before. Is this like gang-speak for something less exciting like a donut?), as well as Brendan’s lock-picking expertise for their new job. Brendan is adamant that he will not be pulled in. He’s put that life behind him. He isn’t keen to relive it.
But he isn’t keen to live out starvation either, and so he agrees to help.
Though this is a relatively short novel, its strongest point is the character of Brendan. As the story starts out, he is the ultimate underdog, doing his best to make an honest living, while making a small home with his girlfriend that he’s surprised is still staying with him. Even within the first chapter I could sympathise with his being in dire straits, anticipating what’s to come as the walls close in around him.
The job ends messily, and Brendan flees to China. To Tomorrow City, hoping to make a new life for himself, to build a new future for himself in this optimistically named town.
As the story takes a turn it makes you question whether you should be siding with Brendan. Though he is not painted as heartless as most of his ‘co-workers’ his actions clarify that he will do whatever he must to keep his name away from investigative eyes. I loved how the novel urged me into this constant oscillation of wanting Brendan to win, while questioning whether he ought to, and how far he could (and would) go to do so.
However, I did find it a little convenient that Brendan’s true enemies were painted out to be inherently cruel – I wanted to find out what he would have done if his predators were to show a softer, more human side as he so often does. Would he have found it easy to barrel through them and their plans simply to save his neck? Just like the tattoo of the tiger on his arm, Brendan reminded me of an animal that reacts wildly when it’s cornered. Such wild reactions can bring about devastating consequences, to both the innocent and the guilty. I think it’s an aspect of his character that could have been further explored. Regardless, this is an entertaining read, and one that kept my eyes glued to the page.
Thanks to Signal 8 Press for the ePub copy.