DOG : Kevin RamsdenThe first five chapters of the book introduce the main characters through five interconnected stories. A cocky young drug dealer, greedy and ambitious, oversteps the mark and sets off a chain of events that will end in tragedy. A love-starved single-mother nurse battles to keep afloat in a not-quite-love triangle. An ex-serviceman turned minder with a queen and country-sized chip on his shoulder plots revenge. A mentally challenged, psychopathic, Liverpool-born drifter, whose head is host to a tormenting spirit loses what little control he has left. And a seen-it-all, world-weary publican, friend to all, but going as nowhere as the barstool he is glued to, falls victim to his own good nature. This is the quintet of losers who fall foul of the least palatable aspects of human nature, but somehow manage to survive.

In part two, the main protagonist, Wayne the dealer, has fled the chaos he created in his hometown and bolted to the south of France to find refuge in a summer job at a campsite in Juan-les-Pins. However, unbeknown to him, the murderous Stranger has also made good his escape, and avoiding detection from the authorities, has resurfaced in Marseilles, a mere two hours distant, finding sanctuary within the Marseilles underworld. Here his particular talent for wanton violence is exploited by a top gang boss who introduces him to the world of high-stakes street fighting. Inter-gang rivalries surface around these sporting endeavors though, and Russian and Eastern European actors also become entrenched in the plot.

It is in part three when everything comes to a head though. Unable to curb his greed and ambitious tendencies, Wayne becomes embroiled in a dangerous game and makes a miscalculation of epic proportions involving one of the most lethal elements in the French underworld. The final chapters of the book stir up plenty of trouble in the form of blackmail, kidnapping, and hard-core violence as the reader is raced along to the final deadly showdown. Old foes are forced to confront each other once more, and retribution is sought and delivered in a tense ending with a surprising twist.

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DOG : Kevin Ramsden

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