Black Rose: A Midsummer Night’s Chutzpah (Larkin’s Barkin’ Book 1) by Pete Adams

Today is my stop on the Book Blog Tour organised by Blackthorn Book Tours for Pete Adams’ latest crime novel, Black Rose: A Midsummer Night’s Chutzpah, the first book in the Larkin’s Barkin’ series. I was sent a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Pete Adams, Henry Roi PR company and Blackthorn Book Tours.

Book Information

Book Description

Existence is about survival.

A continually bullied runt of a youngster, Chas Larkin discovers his chutzpah and decides to take on the London gangs.

In the sleazy and violent East End of 1966 London, he is unwittingly assisted by Scotland Yard and MI5, who use the boy to delay an IRA campaign in the city. Together with the mysterious DCI Casey, an enigma amongst the bomb-damaged slums, they stir the pot of fermenting disquiet.

But can Chas achieve his midsummer night’s dream of total revenge?

Black Rose is a story of matriarchal might, of superstition, of a lucky charm tainted with malevolent juju, and of a young man’s smoldering anger and thirst for retribution.

Praise for Black Rose

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book is a page-turner. It showcases an assortment of vivid, no-frills, realistic characters in sometimes elusive, amusing instances mixed with dark and severe criminal implications.

Author Pete Adams knows how to bring out the rawness of the depraved human condition. His creative storytelling with subtle humor, brewed together with the severe and enigmatic telling of corruption, makes him one of a kind and highly imaginative author. Wikipedia tells of the ‘black rose’ as symbolizing feelings of mystery, dark emotion like sorrow, and obsessive love. It is the perfect title for this story. Though the genre is not my usual reading 5 stars for exceptional storytelling. (Amazon review)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rating: 5 out of 5.

An excellent novel, full of bone dry wit and sarcasm, set in ’60 East End of London. There’s gang warfare, crooked Coppers and corrupt institutions that we seemed to take for granted in the 60’s. But in amongst the literary wit, there is an undercurrent of seriousness running through a plot that throws a light on the IRA terror campaign on the UK mainland. This is truly an engrossing novel that kept me up late at night. Happy to recommend. (Amazon review)


My Review

Black Rose is the first book in Pete Adams’ latest series: Larkin’s Barkin‘. It is set in the seedy East End of London in the 1960s in a world full of gang violence, prostitution, extortion, casual racism and general unseemliness, and reminded me very much of Guy Ritchie’s movies in terms of its setting, characters, language and themes. This is the world that spawned the Kray twins and the 1963 Great Train Robbery.

Amidst all of this unpleasantness there is an undercurrent of dark humour, which I thoroughly enjoyed, along with plenty of Cockney rhyming slang-based language. The Cockney slang used in this part of London is more than a language – it is a code of honour, a badge of belonging. Outsiders such as the Irish DI, Padraig Casey stick out like a sore thumb and are immediately not to be trusted, until they can prove themselves worthy.

Such was life in the oft eulogised East End of London. Not fun. Not a big loving family, but a life on the edge, and tolerated only by developing a rare sense of humour, bordering on denial. Everyone liked a tin bath, (laugh).

In Black Rose there are two main rival gang families, the Saints and the Larkins. Both typically violent family is run by a “tough as old boots” matriarch and based in an East End pub which just so happen to be next door to each other. An Irish family, the O’Neills may or may not have recently arrived on the scene and are quickly gaining an infamous reputation.

These are gritty, vengeful people who deal in death and violence on a daily basis. The police are mostly in the pocket of the gangs and no one lives a particularly long or healthy life.

DI Padraig “Paddy” Casey is an Irish misfit brought into London’s East End due to his experience with the IRA. It turns out he is working for MI5, attempting to rid London of any upcoming IRA violence. Amazingly perceptive, he takes the measure of his partner, DS Wade, and any scenario surprisingly quickly. Casey and Wade are part of a new anti-terrorist Met Team.

‘Someone in the City of London is funding not only the IRA, but also the UDA,’ then for the benefit of Wade, he explained, ‘the Ulster Defence Association, they are an extreme group that we have always thought to be unusually well funded, set up to oppose the Catholics in the North of Ireland.’

Chas Larkin is the runt of Betsy Larkin’s litter with a club foot and lazy eye. All he’s known his entire life is bullying and abuse.  His relatives keep saying they should have drowned him in the River Thames at birth. Unsurprisingly this has led to his mental state being somewhat unstable. Hence the “Larkin’s Barkin” of the series’ title (barkin = barking mad).

Roisin, the Black Rose of the title is a very mysterious character. She claims to be just a year older than Chas but is very capable and knows how to handle herself in a fight, putting Chas’s bully, Mickey Saint into a coma in the school toilets. She seems to miraculously appear when Chas needs her and selflessly defends him. Then she disappears without leaving a trace. DI Casey says the O’Neill family is a myth and doesn’t actually exist – so who exactly is the enigmatic Roisin?

Some of the characters are more like cariacatures. DS Wade, Casey’s partner is a stereotype of a 1960s depiction of a lesbian, right down to her masculine attitudes and her sensible shoes. 

The book was fast-paced and flowed fairly well, but I think you need to be familiar with cockney rhyming slang to be able to appreciate it fully. Without such knowledge, a reader would soon get lost, and be unable to properly follow the plot. There was a surprising twist at the end, that left me wracking my brains to figure out if there had been any clues along the way – if there were I missed them!


About the Author

Pete Adams is an architect living in Portsmouth, UK, where he sets his books. With a writing style shaped by his East-End of London family, Pete’s Kind Hearts and Martinets mini-series of 5 books have been likened to the writing of Tom Sharpe; crime thrillers that make you laugh, with a dash of social commentary. “Made me laugh, cry and think”. Pete’s currently writing book 10 – so, lots to come.

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