First published in January of 2013, US author Aric Davis’ novel ‘Rough Men’ was the writer’s third novel to see publication.

DLS Synopsis:
The job was supposed to be an easy one.  A simple case of get in, ram their guns in the faces of everyone there, get the money out of the vault, and then get the hell out of there.  And they even had a man on the inside, helping them with the robbery.  None other than the bank manager himself.  But as soon as Chris, Alex and Mumbo entered the Lake Michigan Credit Union Branch 421 on the 18th February 2013 – that simple plan fell apart.

Whilst their driver, Rob, circled the premises in the getaway car outside; the inside of the bank had quickly turned into an absolute bloodbath.  Chris was straight into the vault with Alex by his side, whilst Mumbo was out in the foyer, blasting away at whoever came into his sights.  It had turned into one unnecessarily messy job.  And when Alex spotted Chris rooting through a deposit box, clearly searching for something other than the mountains of banknotes piled high around them, the job just got that bit messier for Chris.

Three days later and Will Daniels is woken up by a knock at the door in the middle of the night.  Like a nightmare come true, Will and his wife Alison are given the news by Detective Ryan Van Endel that their son, Alex, has been found dead.  Worse still, the body was discovered burned beyond recognition in an old abandoned farm.  The initial autopsy on the body showed signs that Alex had been shot point-blank in the head before his body was soaked in petrol and burnt to a crisp.

The news is understandably devastating for Will and his wife.  Okay, so Alex had been far from the perfect son.  They’d barely heard from him in years.  And he’d always been in trouble.  But since coming out of prison, his criminal behaviour had obviously gotten considerably worse.

That’s not to say that Will didn’t have his own shady past behind him.  Alcoholic bartender turned moderately successful writer, Will was now on the road to finally making something of his life.  He was finally sober, and had long ago realised the hell he had put his wife through over the years.  But she’d stuck with him through it all.  Taking on Alex when he was just five years old.  Becoming a loving mother to him and trying her best to guide him through life.

And now this.  Will’s one and only son was dead.  And it was only a matter of time before the media got hold of the news about Alex’s involvement in the bloodbath of a bank robbery that had shocked the community for the last three days.  Will calls up his brother Isaac to come stay with him, and then gets his struggling lawyer, Lou Schultz, to help them get through everything.

But when it looks like the police aren’t likely to get very far with their investigations, Will decides to reacquaint himself with a friend from his past.  A friend named Jason Wixom who Will used to work with back when Will’s life was on a downward spiral to hell.  A man who Will thinks might be able to find out a little more than the police can.  But he’s also a man who you really don’t want to mess with.  And in Jason’s eyes, Will is the one man who has probably messed with him the most.

But with or without Jason’s help, Will knows that he must do what he can to get to the truth behind his son’s death.  And when he finally catches up with the one that pulled the trigger on Alex – Will plans to see them suffer every bit as much as his son had.  It’s time for revenge…

DLS Review:
It’s not exactly a particularly cunning or wonderfully elaborate plot.  But it’s nevertheless got its gritty charm about it.  Like something Quentin Tarantino would concoct, the story has more criminals (or ex-criminals) in it than you can shake a blooded stick at.  Indeed, apart from literally a handful of secondary characters, everyone else in the book has had a particularly vicious streak in their lives at least some time in their past.  But that’s certainly no bad thing for a novel titled ‘Rough Men’.

Okay, so it’s not going to be a novel that really pushes any boundaries.  It’s more a gritty action thriller, with plenty of gun-toting violence and underground gang thuggery, than an intellectual read designed to get the reader thinking.  Again, that’s no bad thing in itself.  However the main criteria defining the ultimate success of the novel must therefore surely lie in its overall entertainment valve.  It’s got to have a good sturdy pace to it, and plenty of action and pulse-racing drama to keep the reader’s attention throughout.

‘Rough Men’ achieves this to a certain degree.  It’s certainly an action-rich and moderately exciting read.  The violence is pretty Tarantino-esque, and the characterisation isn’t too bad for a novel of this nature.  But it somehow lacks that explosive energy of a nail-biting thriller that’s one-hundred-percent hellbent on revenge.  And so it sadly just comes across as that little bit too diluted to make much of a lasting impression.  

Admittedly, some of the torture scenes are a little strong, and Davis incorporates quite a challenging subject matter near the end of the tale, but other than that (and a completely outlandish Hollywood pre-twist-ending-finale) the novel is just a bit too flat and unadventurous (or maybe unchallenging) to really get the juices flowing.

For a gritty tale that’s completely consumed in the idea of revenge, such as with Simon Wood’s ‘Terminated’ (2010), the novel really needs to get knee-deep in the emotional maelstrom of vengeance and take on board the psychological turmoil that comes with such a life changing decision.  None of this is really explored in ‘Rough Men’.  It’s just snap decisions, easy choices, simple negotiations and accepting wives.  What a trouble-free world Davis’ characters live in.  Other than all the criminals and violence that is!

That said, it’s still a relatively entertaining read, with enough momentum in the twisting and turning storyline to keep the reader suitably gripped.  The ending (especially the laughable final twist) is by far the weakest section of the book.  But by the time you reach the end, the simplistic plot has pretty much run out of steam, the characters are a bit worn down and probably too one-dimensional to take any further, and the tale’s antagonist is too stretched out and vague by now to really keep up much more interest.  But it was fun whilst it lasted.

The novel runs for a total of 184 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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