People who are compiling summer reading lists should be sure to include the latest book by Salt Spring’s Chris Humphreys, whose new release One London Day is the ideal fast-paced crime adventure for the deck or the beach.
Humphreys, who often writes as C.C. Humphreys, has brought to life wide-ranging subject matter from fantasy realms of his own invention to historical settings like Constantinople under seige and Vlad Tepe’s Romania. While he has veered into crime fiction in the past — Plague, set in 1665, won the 2015 Arthur Ellis award for best crime novel — this is the first time he’s set a story both in the present time and wholly in the known universe.
One London Day revolves around a crime syndicate hit and begins on July 30, 2018, during the hottest summer in 50 years.
“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written — partly because it’s so different,” said Humphreys, who now has 20 published novels under his belt along with a couple of plays. “It would make a cracking movie or a British crime series.”
Reviews that have come in to Good Reads so far agree, with one reviewer naming One London Day “a must-read of 2021.” Another notes the author’s wry wit and scabrous (read as salacious) plot line with great admiration.
Humphreys said the novel actually had a long gestation period before the writing began. The plot stems from a real incident a friend of his witnessed a couple of decades ago, during which her tenant was shot to death in the street before her eyes. The victim was a mild-mannered accountant and the event took place in a quiet, affluent neighbourhood.
“This accountant turned out to be an accountant for a London crime family, and he’d been hit by the Yardies, who are a Jamaican crime syndicate,” Humphreys said. “So to me, [the fascinating part] was there’s a very ordinary street, and a very ordinary man. I was interested in who the person hit would be, what had led to his execution.”
The book is based in North London’s Finchley neighbourhood, where Humphreys used to live, with characters and places also based on those that he knew, brought up to date. After establishing a backstory in the five days before the hit, the second half of the novel is entirely set on the day that event takes place, beginning that morning in Finchley and ending “in violence and betrayal on the steamy night streets of Portobello.”
Instead of London crime families, Humphreys has transferred the source of the action to a group of upper-class Oxford alumni who were recruited by MI5, became a rogue unit known as the Shadows, and use their spy knowledge for financial gain.
Unusual for a crime novel, the story is told from the perspective of five different characters impacted by or involved in the hit. As promotional material states, Humphreys’ treatment is a modern-day update of classic noir motifs: “Like that genre’s ‘40s origins, this story has its hood, its moll, its femme fatale, its fancy boy. Everyone is both protagonist and antagonist. No one gets out unharmed — and some don’t get out at all.”
One London Day is available at Salt Spring Books and Black Sheep Books and can also be ordered through Amazon. A book signing event will take place at Salt Spring Books starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 19.
For more information, see Humphreys’ website at www.authorchrishumphreys.com.