I initially thought that Burn Me Out was just
another mafia-type novel but, as Barrows drew me skilfully into his story, I
realized it promised something much more.
Al Vacarro is a hit man for Eddie
Castella, the Italian crime boss who runs the local neighbourhood. Gang
warfare, extortion and murder are all in a day’s work and his young family know
only his pseudo-job as Vice President of Operations Castella Shipping &
Transport. Al’s back story is rich with emotion, from the adolescent enthusiasm
that propels him to follow in his father’s footsteps, to the perplexity
incumbent upon a career in crime and the self-hatred that eventually comes to
dominate his existence and drives his need for change. Hardened as he is, Al
has had enough.
Barrows maintains a professional
grasp on the pace, the plot points and build-up to the book’s thrilling climax.
The worn-out life-style of the suburban gangster - the alcohol, the girls, the
control and the money - are written just as they look, soiled with a veneer
that had once been shiny. This is so much more effective than over-writing the
glamour of rich, organised crime and glorifying violence. The descriptions of
this weary world portray Al’s disillusionment as nothing else can. We don’t
need to be told that he longs to get out, the writing style informs us.
Castella’s edifice is decaying from within and its corruption fuels Al's desire
Barrows convincingly describes
the false psychology of the Mob, its illusion of power over life and death and
the men who exploit that. His insights and vivid, imaginative prose raise the
novel above other mafia works as a very plausible plot twist turns Al’s loss of
Out is a very balanced book, easy and quick to read. Action, pace,
plot, love, regret, character development and backstory are all present but I
would love to see Barrows write something longer. I would like to know more
about Al’s family life and the see-saw of love and deceit between him and his
wife. I would like to feel the build-up of tension between him and Benny, his
psychotic apprentice. I enjoyed the police involvement and I was curious about
their suspicions surrounding Eddie Castella.
The fact that I would like to
know more proves the worth of the book.
In : Book Reviews