Calibre & Vixen by Ken Bruen – review

I originally reviewed Calibre & Vixen by Ken Bruen on January 30th, 2007.

In both Vixen and Calibre Bruen chooses to follow one main case much as he did in Blitz. Vixen is the sometimes moniker of a femme fatale bomber who wants money from the city in order to stop the indiscriminate killings so that she can move to Florida. In Calibre the “Manners” killer is on the loose killing rude people. Calibre is also a homage to the classic novel The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. One of the highlights is the confrontation between Manners and Brant; afterwards the killer expresses his absolute fear at looking Brant in the eyes.

It’s becoming increasingly clear however that the central case isn’t meant to take center stage. Even though the Brant series is more episodic then the Taylor series there are sub-plots and story arcs that weave through the various books. Even though the series is ostensibly about Brant and by extension Roberts its readily apparent that the most dynamic, compelling and fully formed characters are the others that are in the squad: Falls, the black female cop who may be down but don’t count her out, Porter Nash, the openly gay cop who has struck an unlikely friendship with Brant and McDonald, the disgraced cop and outcast of the squad who is heading for a bad end since everything he touches seems to go to shit. The “Brant” series is really their story.

Brant and to a lesser extent Roberts are already established characters and consequently are static. There isn’t much growth or change to their characters arcs, just more of the same, it’s interesting “same” to be sure but for these two characters it still is the “same”. But Nash, McDonald and especially Falls are filled with so much change, depth and growths that their characters leap off the page. We’ve been with them every step of the way through the good, the bad and the ugly. As the series draws to a close it will be very interesting to see what lies in store for them.

From 1993 through 1999 NBC aired what became one of the greatest cop shows to ever air on network television, Homicide: Life on the Street. The opening scene introduced us to a fresh faced detective named Bayliss. Bayliss was quickly partnered with the dynamic Frank Pembelton, who went on to become one of the great characters that television has ever produced. Over the course of 7 seasons we were exposed to the Baltimore Homicide department and by the end of the series it became apparent that the entire series was in actuality Bayliss’ story arc. Through sheer character movement alone the Brant series will go down as being the story of Nash, McDonald and Falls.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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