Down On Your Knees, Lee Thomas
Rating: 5 Stars
Publisher: Lethe Press
Genre: Gay Fiction
Tags: Organised Crime, Gay MC, Arcane/Magic, Social Commentary, Action, Violence, Horror/Gore
Length: 178 Pages
Denny “The Bull” Doyle steps out of prison only to find a low-level gangster is attempting to take over his organization. Brendan Newton is a newbie to the gang, who’s spent too much time in front of the television, building a grand fantasy about the machinations of the underworld. He’s naive and weak, but he may be the only chance Doyle has. The Bull’s associates are being murdered in violent and bizarre ways, and the next target is his beloved, though wholly sociopathic, brother, Jordie. Behind it all is Malcolm Lynch, a sadistic gangster who has more than guns and knives at his disposal. He’s a sorcerer intent on building an empire, and Doyle is the only thing standing in his way.
Down on Your Knees starts with Denny Doyle being picked up getting out of Crainte after nearly two years of incarceration. Brendan Newton is his designated driver home to Doyle’s family and the family’s old-school crime operation. Brendan is seventeen, and picking up Denny Doyle is a bigger deal than stealing a few cars with his friends. Doyle is a hero in his neighbourhood. Brendan’s father refers to him as ‘his queer angel’, the ‘saviour of Gray’s Channel’. Certainly not a hero who wears a cape, but he looks out for the locals in between doing what has to be done as an enforcer and earner for the family business.
The Doyle brothers protected Gray’s Channel. Some kid knocked down a granny to snag her purse, and Jordie grabbed his Glock. Some guy fiddled with a brat, and Denny used his Makita nail gun to pin the perv’s dick to his belly. One college student-douche refused to turn his stereo down after having been repeatedly asked by his old-man neighbor. The sleepless neighbor complained to Nathan Doyle. So Nathan got himself a machete and paid a midnight visit.
What starts out as some hero worship and an opportunity for his girlfriend to think more of him turns into so much more for young Brendan. Especially when Denny works out the welcome home party is nothing more than a trap by a rival who has moved in on his family’s territory. Denny’s friends are dropping like flies or refuse to acknowledge him out of fear of Malcolm Lynch. Even his crazed younger brother, Jordie, seems to be accepting Lynch more readily than he should be, so what’s going on? Is Brendan in on the deal to off Denny straight out of Crainte?
Never truer words were spoken. Brendan is about to have a very bad day. A very intense week. Welcome to hard-nose crime, pet.
When Denny ends up killing the son of Malcolm Lynch, part of the “welcoming party,” it’s game on. One violent ride ensues. Lynch can’t let that lie and Denny won’t let Lynch have his measure.
One of my favourite books is The Son by Jo Nesbo and what I love about that book is the way you feel sympathy for the anti-hero, Sonny Lofthus. Something Denny is in Down on Your Knees. He is far from a good man, but you can’t help support him because he’s made relatable. And just like in The Son, you get a feel for the MC through other’s eyes – like Brendan who is also a POV narrator of this book. Brendan thinks he’s a tough guy. He isn’t. He’s a kid with romantic ideas about crime. Still, when Denny needs something the kid is… accessible. Mostly, it’s good to see his thought processes in amongst Denny’s.
Brendan didn’t know how many men his passenger had killed. Some said it was well into the double digits. Others, those who took his interest in cock as a sign of weakness, figured he’d ordered a few hits, but didn’t have the balls to pull his own trigger; they said Nathan and Jordie had done the wet work for him, protecting their pansy brother. Sitting there, Brendan felt that those who underestimated Doyle were suicidally mistaken.
You know what else I loved about his book? That Brendan is not the sudden GFY partner. I swear I would have thrown the Kindle if that happened, but I’m so used to thinking that’s the way a book in any gay genre will go nowadays that I was waiting.
I also loved the real and genuine writing around the vocation of Denny and the one man he has feelings for, possibly loves, not meshing. The sad but unwavering reality of it. It’s seen through both Denny and Brendan’s eyes as well which adds immense depth, allows reader empathy to something that isn’t given a lot of page time.
There is organic social commentary written into this crime world that parallels reality for a lot of LGBTQ people – gay in this case. Maybe I looked too hard into the writing. But Denny has to be tougher, stronger, faster, brighter than the others in the world he lives and works in because he’s a ‘fag’ a ‘homo’, a ‘cocksucker.’ Homophobia is bluntly clear in the dialogue or thoughts of others. Crime or not, how much harder has it been to hold a partner’s hand in public, kiss the person you love because they’re the same-sex as you? Take them to work functions? Change or no in some parts of the world, it’s still a challenge, sometimes much worse.
The other men in the organization felt themselves magnanimous for tolerating his bedroom activities, and he knew they only did so because of the reputation he’d built for himself before word had gotten out. He earned. He enforced. And he was better at the life than almost anyone else living it. He had to be. Any weakness would be attributed to his sexuality, amplified by it. One too many failures and he’d go from boss to homo-corpse quicker than his brother Jordie could down a shot of tequila.
The magical elements of this book add an even darker layer to an already dark story. Lynch was brutal. This story is unapologetically tough. Necromancy is a freaky skill-set that Lynch uses in an emotionally disturbing way, along with flat-out violence. Denny can’t let either get in the way of what he has to do to stop this upstart arsehole who thinks he owns Doyle territory – whether Denny wants out or of the business or not, it’s the principal of the thing. And Denny is no slouch when it comes to violence of his own, and doing what has to be done. It’s not the rebar, it’s the way you wield it.
If you want something different in gay fiction. Something very well written, Noir. Fast-paced. A crime/UF/suspense story wrapped up in one, with no shying away from violence, then this is definitely your book. Highly recommended reading. 5 Stars!
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