Jack Carter’s Law by Ted Lewis (Soho Syndicate, October 7, 2014) – Being such a huge fan of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter (or Jack’s Return Home), I’m embarrassed to say that I never had the opportunity to dive into the rest of the Carter trilogy. So in cracking the spine on Jack Carter’s Law, there was certainly a level of expectation here; Lewis built a blueprint so many crime writers follow. Could he meet or exceed the bar he established in the original? Yes and no.
Without spoiling the original Get Carter for those who never read it (though, that should change), Jack Carter’s Law serves as a prequel story taking place during a time in Carter’s life that was a little more ‘settled’.
For those that need to know; Jack Carter’s a fixer, and what needs fixing is well, everything. A member of his crime family’s potentially gone stoolie. His bosses are inept, his enemies are gearing up to strike, and his time is limited. Carter needs to find and eliminate
Lewis succeeds in bringing Carter back and in his natural element. This isn’t North England—the conversation is easier, the lights brighter. Luckily the filth is still there pouring from the cracks. Carter’s London is appropriately terrifying. A place where every enemy’s ready to come at you and every friend’s got a knife behind their back for you. Our hero? Well, he may be the worst of them all, but only because the man knows that’s exactly what it takes to survive.
It’s what makes Jack Carter such an infinitely fantastic protagonist. So often, Lewis presents us with a hero who is despicable, not just sometimes, but almost constantly. This is a criminal. We’re only rooting for him because he’s a little more likeable than the rest of the leeches in the London crime community.
And let me say, Ted Lewis was a master at crafting a cast readers just love seeing get their fitting punishments at the hand of Carter. There’s a greater care in characterization that while present in Get Carter, feels stronger here. I may have a massive soft spot for Get Carter, but I can admit that the craftsmanship at play here is staggering. There’s a reason why Ted Lewis is cited as a major influence on many writers in the crime and hard-boiled scene.
With Jack Carter and The Mafia Pigeon unread, I can’t make a definitive claim at which book in the trilogy is entirely my favorite, but Jack Carter’s Law is an entertaining read for fans of crime with a little more grit than usual. The cynicism of the post-World War 2 Europe is in fine display here and Ted Lewis is a more than appropriate guide to a London that’s far away from most mainstream media portrayals of the city.
I’d recommend picking up the entire trilogy (a review of the last book is forthcoming – once I’ve read it). Ted Lewis is an important author and there’s no better time than now to catch up on his influential and rollicking novels.