Monday, July 30, 2012
Review of Bad Traffic by Simon Lewis (Sort of Books, 2008)
The premise for Bad Traffic is a good one: both privileged and peasant Chinese struggling to find their place in a new country with limited English and understanding of the culture. It enables Lewis to both explore the differing Chinese experiences of Britain and to give an impression of Britain through the eyes of others, and to also give some insight into modern China. It’s an opportunity he doesn’t waste, providing an engaging and unsettling tale of the illegal immigrant experience and the gang’s who run the trafficking routes. To do so, Lewis regularly switches the perspective of the narrative between the principle characters, all of whom are well portrayed. His prose is all show and no tell, driven along by dialogue and action, with the story told through a series of short, punchy chapters. The plot is generally well constructed, but sometimes strays a little too close to farce and plot devices designed to keep the caper nature of the story moving along. They work to alleviate what is essentially a dark tale, but also nibble away at the credibility of some elements of the tale. Nevertheless this is a well written, unsettling and entertaining read that manages to find a fresh angle on the contemporary British crime novel.