RILKE ON BLACK is one of Ken Bruen's earlier noirs and it's easy to see where the foundations for Jack Taylor were laid. Bruen's depiction of noir in a modern setting is unsettling and essential to the downtrodden and depraved mindset of his characters who inhabit this grey clad world he so effortlessly thrusts them in. In RILKE ON BLACK, the influence of vice is paramount to the plot. Alcoholisms and a slightly lighter form of prostitution (or overt promiscuous) to meet an end drive the character traits as the underworld cracks the surface towards urban crime.
A trio of misfits hatch a plot to kidnap a prominent club owner in order to buy a one way ticket from everyday living. An opportunity born through a devious kind of trust ensures that this plan is far from bullet proof. Bruen does a good job at maintaining the suspense and keeping the knife at bay, ready to strike in ones back at the slightest provocation. A quality few could master.
The crime itself plays out in relative prediction. Its the ensuing money drop and subsequent actions of the kidnappers that hold the readers attention. Nick (the bouncer), Dex (the requisite drifter type), and Lisa (the brains of the operation and shady character) play off each other constantly with violence simmering and mistrust as common as a breath of sordid polluted air.
There was a lot to like about RILKE ON A BIKE, yet the simplicity will either marvel or leave wanting. Its very much 'take-it-or-leave-it'. My initial reaction is that RILKE ON A BIKE is enjoyable without bringing the same level of satisfaction I've come to expect by Ken Bruen. This one definitely requires a re-read in order to fully appreciate Bruen's early development of the craft.