Review: When the Music’s Over by Aidan Thorn

Aidan Thorn
Number 13 Press

“Benny had taken his first life. That meant he’d thrown away what was left of his, too. He’d known that the moment he decided Harry Weir had to die.”

When Benny Gower murders his business partner few people doubt his good reasons for doing so. Unlike Benny, it’s not as if Harry Weir was popular. But he was the heir to Birmingham’s most violent and dangerous criminal organisation.

For Wynn McDonald, dragged out of retirement for the sake of his old gangland accomplices, motive doesn’t matter. All he cares about is tracking down the nightclub manager turned killer. But before Wynn can extract necessary vengeance he’ll need to turn over every stone on his way to finding answers. And not everybody’s going to be happy with the truths that come crawling out.

Thorn’s novella rips along with action from the first page: we follow first time killer Benny Gower and seasoned killer Wynn McDonald in alternating chapters, then jump back to the past to see where the bad blood started. I don’t think the Birmingham tourist bureau is going to be clapping Thorn on the back any time soon, but he brings the city to vivid (albeit criminal) life.

There’s a little bit of head hopping in the ’90s section but it’s not much of a distraction because Thorn captures the hungry band on the edge of success so well. Even the aged and jaded hired gun finds himself captivated by the secrets of the past — and the brutal payoffs they set in motion.

Great fun, a meaty read but still short enough to read fairly quickly — which is good because once you start, you won’t want to stop until you get to the end.