Source: Review copy
Publication: 10 June 2021 from Quercus Books
My thanks to Ella Patel and Quercus Books for an early copy for review
A series of bizarre drug-related deaths among runaway teenagers has set the North East’s homeless community on edge. The word on the street is that a rogue batch of Spice – the zombie drug sweeping the inner cities – is to blame, but when one of Jimmy’s few close friends is caught up in the carnage, loyalty compels him to find out what’s really going on.
One Way Street sees the welcome return of Jimmy Mullen, the homeless, PTSD-suffering, veteran as he attempts to rebuild his life following the events in The Man on the Street. As his probation officer constantly reminds him: all he needs to do is keep out of trouble. Sadly for him, trouble seems to have a habit of tracking Jimmy down.
I loved Trevor Wood’s first Jimmy Mullen outing The Man on the Street about a veteran Navy officer. Jimmy Mullen was a leading regulator in the Royal Navy Police, but his PTSD from his time in the Falklands led him into a downward spiral and after a spell in prison, onto the streets. Mullen is an accidental detective, and it’s usually his mates Gadge and Deano who find trouble for him. Mullen’s loyalty is fierce, to his friends and his dog, Dog. He’s slowly getting to know his daughter Kate again. He also has a relationship with Julie, a woman he met in the previous book.
Out on licence, he’s doing now got a room in a hostel and has started group therapy. It’s winter and life on the streets is very hard. A wave of drug deaths, principally among the young, is sweeping Newcastle and Sunderland; police suspect a new variant of Spice is the cause.
Jimmy discovers that Deano has a younger brother, Ash, who he lost contact with years ago. Deano has heard that Ash has recently been seen in Sunderland and disappears off to look for him. Jimmy and Gadge know that Deano is vulnerable and set out to help him find his brother, only to fall foul of the spice dealers. Then Ash is found, dead.
As Jimmy starts to look into who is peddling this bad batch of drugs, his life once again comes under threat and the progress he has made in trying to live a normal life is sent right back to square one.
Trevor Wood’s strength lies both in his excellent characterisation and in his ability to plot a storyline that plays to the strength of those characters, making it both believable and honest. Often it’s one step forward, two steps back for Jimmy who finds the hostel grim, but grimmer still is having no fixed abode in the midst of winter. Still, as Sandy, his probation officer reminds him, all he has to do is stay out of trouble…
Trevor Wood paints an exceptional picture of life on the streets and the characters who inhabit the world of the rough sleepers. In this book we learn a lot more about young Deano and where he came from. All these characters have complex, difficult backgrounds; each has their own set of circumstances which led to be homeless. In Deano’s case it is a legacy of abuse and neglect dating back to his early years that has led him to become an addict and we find out about that past in this book because it is coming back to haunt him in a big way when he searches for his brother, Ash.
When you don’t have anything, you tend to lose your faith in people, too. Jimmy Mullen is suspicious, but he is loyal to Gadge and Deano and he looks out for them. He’s also fortunate to have made a couple of useful contacts in a local journalist and in DS Andy Burns; contacts that will be helpful in his search for the drug dealers and when he, yet again, falls foul of the law.
The Newcastle of Wood’s books stands out as a striking character in its own right. His characters feels authentic and Jimmy’s flaws are as well etched as his strengths. Wood sees what life on the streets is like for an invisible underclass and he shows the importance of homeless shelters such as The Pit Stop just as he portrays the grim reality of the men’s hostel.
The conversational crack is good, though and the jokes can flow when Jimmy, Gadge and Deano are in the mood. They may not have a lot to laugh about, but this camaraderie can keep them going.
Wood’s plot is dark and gritty utilising flashbacks to Deano’s childhood, and the whole theme of drugs and using children is as chilling as it is, sadly, authentic. Once more, everything Jimmy has achieved is put in jeopardy as Jimmy gives no quarter in searching for the truth.
Verdict: With lots more character information and development; this is a great addition to the series. The way forward for Jimmy is becoming clearer, but as Wood has shown, we can take nothing for granted. I really like this protagonist and his mates and Trevor Wood has drawn them brilliantly even as he once more makes them face dangerous adversaries. Excellent!
Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for twenty-five years and considers himself an adopted Geordie. He’s a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for sixteen years. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. The Man on the Street, his first novel, was published to widespread critical acclaim and won the 2020 CWA New Blood Dagger. One Way Street is his second novel.