Malcolm Mackay’s new standalone novel, The Night the Rich Men Burned, is a dark look at the world of criminal enterprise. Honestly, there are no good guys. Instead, there’s a slew of bad guys ranging from unpleasant to downright hateable. For instance, there’s Billy Patterson–the ruthless tough guy who runs his own debt collection business. And then there’s Marty Jones–your typical foul-mouthed pimp. Heck, there’s even a guy so unpleasant that his nickname is “Potty.” Seriously.
But the biggest, most cunning and unforgiving antagonist of them all is a little thing called greed…which is where two young, longtime friends named Oliver Peterkinney and Alex Glass come into play.
Peterkinney and Glass are, again, young. They’re also unemployed and disheartened by their inability to get ahead in their lives. Peterkinney, who still shares a place with his grandfather, is a doer and a go-getter. Glass, on the other hand, well, he’s more of the type to sit and dream about winning the lottery.
Together, the two friends start working for Marty Jones, the pimp. They like that he puts a little cash in their pockets, but neither of them consider their newfound illegal means of employment as debt collectors as a long-term solution. Specifically, they are dispatched to threaten people who owe money and haven’t paid up. Their first time out, in fact, ended with them throwing a thug a beating as he pleaded for an extension.
As time goes on, Jones begins to favor Peterkinney over Glass, and the two friends seem to forget that they each took this “job” as a temporary means to make some quick cash and get ahead in life. Soon, they are headed in different directions entirely.
Malcolm Mackay does a brilliant job bouncing the story around from various points of view, and an even better job at somehow finding a way to make the reader care about characters who, frankly, become quite unlikable. I even found myself favoring different characters at different parts of the story, based on their decision-making and what motivated them.
Before long, Peterkinney has made a reputation for himself as he continues to get sucked further and further into the world of crime. Glass, meanwhile, has screwed everything up. With nobody else to love, he tries to make things work with a woman who’s caught in the same grim, hopeless life that he sees for himself.
In the end, well, it’s somewhat depressing to look back on the lives Peterkinney and Glass have chosen–and Mackay ties things up in a shocking way that ultimately makes the message of The Night the Rich Men Burned crystal-clear (though you will have to read it for yourself to understand).
The world of thugs, pimps, debt collectors, and henchmen is no place for two teenage friends. It’s cruel, dark, and will chew you up and spit you out in a flash. In that sense, Mackay delivers a fascinating character study that dissects the reasons and misfortune that often play a role in a person’s decision to step foot into the world of crime.
This is not your typical gritty cop drama, as one might expect to find when diving into a book about crime. Instead, this book is about crime and the people who have made it their business and way of life. Malcolm Mackay has managed to pull the curtain back just enough to allow people a glimpse into a heartbreaking and scary world that most of us pretend doesn’t exist–but lock our door at night just in case it really does.
When it comes to writing crime-fiction, Malcom Mackay knows just what he’s doing. However, this book is certainly not for everyone. If you’re looking for a great political thriller, don’t stop here. Want a spy novel? Keep on going. There’s no doubt that this is a well-written book, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard to read at times. The content in itself is often teetering on the brink of disturbing. But if crime thrillers are your thing, then by all means, run out and buy this book first thing when the bookstore opens on May 3rd.
Author: Malcom Mackay
Pages: 337 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Release Date: May 3, 2016 (Order now!)