Sheenagh Pugh's Reviews > Pocket Notebook

Pocket Notebook by Mike Thomas
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's review
Dec 29, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: novels
I own a copy

Jacob Smith, firearms officer, is dressed for an op:

"Today’s outfit:

Atlas Assault coveralls with Namex III flash-resistant fabric and Kevlar Reinforcement patches on the knees, elbow and groin; Damascus Imperial neoprene knee pads; Damascus Imperial ‘Hardshell’ elbow pads; 5.11 Tac-Ak Tactical Application gloves with Kevlar; spare Blackhawk Hellstorm Light Operations gloves; Lava Combat GTX boots; Web-Tex Cross-Draw Vest for cartridges and percussion grenades along with Maglite LED 4D cell torch, plasticuffs, Gerber multi-tool and normal kwik-cuffs in a Fobus cuff-case; 5.11 ‘Field Ops’ Sniper Watch; Viper 3-point rifle sling modified to hold my pump-action; Bianchi UM92 military holster for the Glock; Blackhawk Hellstorm Poly-Pro Tactical Balaclava; Bulldog customised ballistic body armour; Avon FM12 respirator coupled with an Anson Atlas flame retardant Avon respirator cover; Atlas ballistic helmet which offers ballistic and blunt trauma protection; Gorilla Bar for method of entry and a collapsible ‘Quickstep’ ladder, both strapped to my back.

All in black. I look cool as fuck. Imposing. Intimidating. A futuristic street-warrior. RoboJake, and you've got twenty seconds to comply. Only problem is I can barely move."

Jacob's immobilizing armour is not just physical. Nor just verbal, though he has an impressive (and funny) screen of collective nouns ("a Pointlessness of Police Community Support Officers"), nicknames ("I just referred to him as Seal Pup because all I wanted to do was club him to death") and assorted sardonic coinages: even in his nightmare of being executed, the relatives and friends in the viewing gallery have programme notes printed "Jacob Smith: Why Bother?"

Behind his obsessive body-building, fascination with Vietnam war films and computer games, sudden attachments to women who aren't his wife and automatic iconoclasm in the face of accepted propriety and procedure, Jacob is breaking up. His principal worry is that he is 38, but only his wife and best friend know why this matters, and neither can help him overcome the fear that he will become what he hates in his own past. But Jacob should really be worrying about more immediate matters, like the money he owes to some very ruthless people and the growing concern of his superiors about his work methods.

Mike Thomas is a serving police officer and this dark, fast, funny but often moving novel has an authenticity that could never have come from outside. It helps us to feel we're on the inside, with Jacob, as he tries to make sense of his life. Jacob is not, when we meet him, a nice man, or a good man, though the more he comes apart the more, paradoxically, we see glimpses of the good man he might have been. But he is always a compelling, pacy, funny, complex narrator and protagonist in whom we can't help being interested and who carries us along on a breakneck journey of disintegration, revelation and growing self-awareness. Despite his best efforts, I ended up fond of him, and I think many other readers will too.

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