Once again, I’ve teamed up with Royal James Publishing on their blog tour of The Invisible Crown by Charlie Cottrell.
I’ve always enjoyed a good detective story, and The Invisible Crown, book one in the Hazzard Pay series, proved to be an amusing addition to the genre, with a few sci-fi elements thrown in for good measure.
While at first glance the novel appears to fall into the classic noir genre, it detours a little from the norm. Today, I’d like to take a look at the top ten characteristics that distinguish noir from hard-boiled detective stories.
- Deep 1st person narrative. Traditionally, the noir genre takes you deep into the mind of the character, with a narrative told from their often quite twisted perspective. Eddie Hazzard, the narrator of The Invisible Crown, fulfils this criterion splendidly, with a voice that’s mildly annoying, often ironic, but never dull.
- Doom and gloom. Noir is not about happy endings. Or middles, or even beginnings. More often than not, things go from bad to worse, and then end up in hell in a bucket. Needless to say, check this one off the list for Cottrell’s story as well!
- Morals, or lack thereof. The characters in a classic noir novel, have few to no morals. They won’t hesitate to lie, steal or kill to get their way, and their actions shove them over the edge of doom – ensuring the happily never after ending. In The Invisible Crown, Eddie Hazzard doesn’t quite manage this, making him a strangely endearing anti-hero.
- According to Otto Penzler, “pretty much everyone in a noir story (or film) is driven by greed, lust, jealousy or alienation…” Check another one off for Cottrell. The characters in the novel are twisted and strange, not just because of their genetic modifications (which are fantastic to imagine), but because of their motivations. As for the gen-mod descriptions they’re woven into the narrative so well, that for a while I kept walking around expecting to meet a talking gorilla.
- Self-destruction of the narrator. Because it’s not enough that the world hates you and you’re doomed to eternal misery; you also need to try and destroy yourself – slowly. Eddie Hazzard meets this criterion with an often annoying aptitude. His hangovers, while entertaining at first, soon became tedious – a sad distraction from his other charms which could have been avoided had Cottrell given the reader slightly more insight into his addiction. Of course, bordering on noir, Hazzard doesn’t need a reason to drink – he just has to live with it.
- A corrupted system. Check, and double check. The layers in this novel just sink deeper and deeper into rot. The sense that there was, quite literally, no completely innocent person in the entire city of Arcadia, was created so perfectly by Cottrell, I needed a shower to wash off the stench of corruption.
- Frank descriptions of violence and sex. Tick this one off. While there were no erotic scenes in The Invisible Crown, Eddie Hazzard certainly has an eye for the ladies, and there was no shortage of violence and death.
- The femme fatale. Enter Vera Stewart. Rich, sexy, dangerous. Just how dangerous, depends on how far Hazzard is prepared to go to solve the case she brings to him.
- A hyper-localised setting. The city of Arcadia may be vast, but we only ever see a few settings throughout the whole novel. The descriptions of these settings are vivid and emotive, evoking a surreal clarity of the environment Hazzard operates in.
- In noir, the protagonist is the victim, suspect or perpetrator. This puts The Invisible Crown firmly into the hard-boiled category, as Eddie Hazzard is not only a raging alcoholic, but the PI hired to solve a mystery.
All in all, while The Invisible Crown doesn’t quite fit into the noir genre, it certainly makes it into the hard-boiled detective category and does so exceedingly well. I look forward to what the rest of the series holds in store for us.