Review – The Hard Swim – (Sam Dyke Investigations)

Keith Dixon’s P.I. Sam Dyke is back…. This time the action takes us to Edinburgh, Manchester, Portsmouth and across the channel to a sleepy village in rural France. Sam makes for a thoughtful protagonist – he’s the son of a Yorkshire miner who can riff on comparisons between the decline of industrial Britain and that of French agriculture, while getting himself and his client out of sticky situations.
Keith’s nemesis in this book is not the hired assassin Connell Steele, but his paymaster, the ambitious and morally bankrupt politician Gideon Blake.

Where The Hard Swim excels is the way it takes us into the minds of the hard-men soldiers who saw and did much more than they should have on the front line in Iraq and Afghanistan. On their return to civvy street some of these washed-up souls end up driving taxis or, for those who really can’t get rid of their residual anger, go into jobs such as ‘oil security’ or worse. Connell Steele is one such, rather deranged example. Steele, though is tiring of his day job as a mercenary. Like many a wage slave he’s stuck in his job and even though he’s very well paid to do his dirty work, he’s hardly the type to chuck in the towel and take himself off to do a creative writing M.A.

The Hard Swim is deftly plotted and an engaging read, weaving together stories from the Second World War with those set in the present. The plotting is so well done that Dixon keeps the reader guessing. Every detail that is set-up earlier on in the novel has a pay-off later on in the story. Keith Dixon’s prose is fluent and assured and he has that knack of making the writing look easy…. Although Chantal remains somewhat of an enigma, I think it was a wiser choice by the author to choose instead to delve into the mind of a complex psychopath, who is beginning to doubt himself.

On the strength of this, the third Sam Dyke book I’m keen to read the first two.

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