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Layer Cake

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,361 ratings  ·  93 reviews
Layer Cake - a metaphor for the many murky levels of the criminal underworld - is set in modern day London and features a smooth talking, sophisticated but anonymous drug dealer. ['If you knew my name you'd be as clever as me'] His plan is to very, very quietly, with great stealth ['Lovely word, stealth, say it stealth'] bankroll enough discreetly laundered cash to retire ...more
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published January 12th 2011 by Duckworth Overlook (first published April 6th 2000)
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,361 ratings  ·  93 reviews

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John Pye
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really great book. The author gets right into the mind of the drug dealing central character. His knowledge of the drugs world is quite astonishing and I say this as a former drugs squad detective. I found it quite odd (especially taking into account my background) that the main character (he who remains nameless)is actually the hero of the story and becomes a character who you find yourself wanting to succeed. It is a fantastic roller coaster ride with stunningly good and completely c ...more
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The author did a much better job adapting it into a movie.
Warren Stalley
Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An unnamed protagonist and his associate Mr Mortimer run a successful drug dealing business but things start to go wrong when they get called on to do a favour, for someone higher up the food chain Mr Jimmy Price, to find the missing daughter of another powerful gangster, while there’s also the small matter of two million stolen high grade ecstasy pills to contend with. Rich in baffling lingo and jargon this is a tricky book to get into, taking a certain amount of dedicated patience on the part ...more
Corielle Hayley
Jan 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Several weeks have gone by, and I'm still not sure if I liked this book. I think I did. It certainly kept me guessing, and I definitely did not expect the end. It just took a while to get into. But once I did, I (think) I liked it.

Our unnamed protagonist deals coke. He's about to turn 30, he's got quite the little nest egg and he's ready to retire. He doesn't want to be some old gangster. But he gets roped in one more job for his boss (and his boss's boss), and of course, it all goes south on hi
Phil Altimas
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Layer cake is amazing , really gets you involved and its high paced . It's a book that makes you want to turn over the page but at the same time you don't want it to end.
The character's stand out and make you visualise who you would expect to play them on the big screen. They are all also so believable, you can see these guys on the streets of any city. Unfortunately I watched the film after i read the book and it ruined the whole thing. The characters you visualise in the book are not what you
A sprawling exploration of London's underworld in the mid-Nineties written in a stream-of-consciousness chockablock with impenetrable Cockney rhyming slang. Not the most accessible novel for American readers, but definitely one of the most realistic crime novels set from the point of view of a drug dealer ever written.
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: delightful
Layer Cake, written by J.J. Connolly based on his novel

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

Layer Cake is an interesting thriller.
Its Metascore is: 73

This means that critics have appreciated it.
And it is not bad.

But this no Goodfellas either.
Some of the lines in the dialogue are clever, others are humorous, but a good number could be taken as somewhat silly:

- “You’re born, you take
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVE Guy Richie’s ‘Lock Stock’ and ‘Snatch’ and wanted to read a book in the same vein. This one hit the money. No porkies, this is a real page turner that will keep you guessing. I loved how all the characters were tied together, as much as I loved the surprise ending. This is the kind of book you need to go back and reread passages because so much is interrelated. Worth the effort. I read it in ten days, although I read most of it in huge chunks, especially after the halfway part - you kind ...more
Nik W
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book is fun, gritty, humorous at times, with lots of criminal mischief that kept me hooked. fantastic book
Ryan Miller
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's easy to see why this book was turned into a movie. The quick, witty dialogue keeps you on your toes and the protagonist's struggles (both internal and external) keep the pages turning.
Lydia Tannasee
Was hard to get into and some bits were confusing but I liked the story line and the unexpected twists throughout
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
rather hard to follow at times, but this was unpredictable and a very fun read.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good stuff

This is a heck of a crime novel. It felt very much like the movie, Snatch, with the rapid fire dialog, frenetic action, and loads of Britishisms. I enjoyed It immensely.
James Riser
Mar 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Layer Cake has strong settings and clear characterization. There is a pretty large cast of characters, but Connolly manages to make them all unique and memorable. Just as the tense plot takes a lot of turns, the ending is just as unexpected.

The colloquial language the book is written in creates a stronger bond between the reader and the narrator. The tone effectively shifts with the unnamed narrator's moods and actions. It's a very intimate look into the mind and the world of a cocaine dealer a
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Smooth and saavy, our dealer guide to the London's modern drug scene knows the trouble of flash and instead plans to make his money quietly and then leave the scene. There's plenty stashed away, but to get the blessing of his boss, he has to take on one more assignment (track down his friend's runaway daughter) and finish a final deal. Of course, nothing is quite that simple.

Paul read the back and told me sounded like a movie he'd want to watch(which there in fact is one), and I decided to take
Greg Frederick
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know this book existed until years after I saw the movie. I was thrilled to get a chance to read it, and it definitely did not disappoint. The movie is very similar to the book, but where they differ, the movie was actually better. Of course the book has a bit more depth in places, which is nice.

The one slight difficulty I had with this book is that there is so much British drug-world slang that it's hard to follow what's going on at times. After a while, though, I got used to it and co
Dec 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Years ago this movie became one my regular haunts. A week usually never went by for the longest time that I didn't watch it at least once. I heart the movie that much. Naturally I had it on my 'to be read' list for ages. I had put it off for quite some time until finally, a few weeks ago, I picked it up. I tend to put a book down more often than I should if I have seen it's adaptation usually is the reason for me taking so long to finish this one. I know the movie inside and out, but still thoug ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book blew me away. It's not deeply philosophical or wonderfully artistic; it's just a heck of a lot of fun to read. Connolly writes true to his London origins, but keeps it readable. There is no Clockwork Orange Syndrome here, where the story and meaning get lost in the jargon.

Overall the story is an engaging one, following the unnamed narrator as he tries to finish up a last few things and get out of London's drug underworld. The novel is filled with plotting, counterplotting, twists, sur
Stephen Phillips
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
In the tradition of "Ocean's Eleven" or Elmore Leonard novels, Layer Cake's unamed first person narrator is a criminal the reader quickly admires. He is a good guy in a bad trade, a drug dealer who keeps a low profile, operating in the middle of the narcotics trade, between mafia dons and street pushers. His goal is to make his fortune and retire by age thirty. As his birthday approaches, things get in the way of his plans...

Layer Cake is an enjoyable read. Those on the left side of the pond wil
Read as an Audiobook, narrated by Paul Thornley. Great narration, perfectly pitched and read - in my top 30 of 100's of Audiobooks I've listened to over the years. Complex story, great characters and god knew where it was heading - loved it. I listened to 'the author talks' at the end of the Audiobook and I think Connolly understandably understated his personal knowledge of the drug underworld, to which he admitted to some using. Otherwise you've got to think, how the hell does he know this stuf ...more
I tried to read this book 4 years ago and couldn't get beyond pg 76, but I don't like to leave things unfinished so I'm trying again. The structure of the book makes it difficult to get through. There are either long paragraphs or rapid-fire dialogue exchanges and both like to repeat themselves and use multiple slang terms for the same person/place/thing. It gets a little tedious. I think this is one of the rare occurrences where the movie adaptation is better than the book because the movie str ...more
Ian Mapp
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
Its difficult to provide an objective review on this, as I have seen and love the film.

The book is a great literary complement - maybe not better or worse - and you can see how the author also wrote the screenplay.

The characters obviously all spring to live as you can picture them.

The duke has a bigger part in the film than the book - the baltic gangsters in the film were neo nazis in the book - an innocent american was killed on Primrose Hill, rather than the scouse gunman - and the nameless dr
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The first person narrative of a drug-dealer in London looking for one more big score before retiring was full of twists and cleverly written. However, I really needed a glossary to translate all the British slang. I had to re-read several sections to figure out what was being said, since I had no idea what "cozzers, old bill, birds, duffer, khazi, or nicked" meant. Now that I've read the book, I'm anxious to see the movie, since I've heard Daniel Craig does a nice job ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A young drug dealer who fancies himself a bit above it all, a bit smarter than the average thug, learns some harsh lessons at the hands of some very bad people. The book is written in first person, in such a thick British criminal argot that it took me back to the first time I read "A Clockwork Orange." Eventually, you adjust to it, though. The plot wanders a bit in the middle, but eventually it all comes together in a fast and furious climax of big fish eating little fish, only to find out that ...more
Michelle Keill
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book with many, erm, layers. If I hadn't seen the film, I'm not sure if I'd been able to keep track of this, particularly as the story is narrated in what feels like another language (and I'm a Londoner). It gets tiresome after a while hearing about people being punched in the 'canister' and things being 'moody', but there's a good story underneath all that, and after 50 pages or so I began to relax into it and enjoy it. Crime does pay, apparently, but boy do you need balls of steel and a calm ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was good but not quite as good as the movie. It reads like a modern noir but with a twist, think Goodfellas mixed with the Hustler. I think the movie was better because the protagonist was more likable and had more of a fall from grace ; (thank God they didn't bend to studio pressures and shoot the ending the way they were told to).

The main guy in the book was a little to smart and egotistical without the same repercussions as in the movie. I would certainly recommend this if you like n
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
loved the movie on an aesthetic level - very flash
Daniel Craig is cauliflower ear handsome
the music welling over the stomping
the score was spot on

the book a little less so...
It makes a great deal more sense the way it is laid out
the threads tie together a great deal more in text block but it is more than a bit wordy for it's own sake - I love slang but this was having one's ear talked off
Justin Miller
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: page-to-screen
Great read. The pace is good and the plot was complicated enough to keep me guessing. The most interesting part of the book was also the most difficult, the British slang and the crime/drug jargon. The vocabulary lent an authenticity, and I could definitely hear the Queen's English behind the words, but I found myself rereading passages quite frequently to make sure I understood. Overall I was very impressed with this book and will likely look for its sequel.
Adam  McPhee
I liked the plot but a lot of other things – characters, dialogue, the writing in general – were a letdown. The author takes great pains to stretch anecdotes out to fill chapters and there's an overabundance of run on sentences and strangely placed multiple exclamation marks. It's not a terrible book, some parts of it are really clever, but it gets tiresome after a while. There's a smugness to the protagonist that brings the novel down.
Celia Micklefield
Mar 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't like book covers that show a scene from the film, but I didn't like the original cover anyway. See my post re: book covers

However, this is a most entertaining read if you like tales about hardened criminals and their violent exchanges. This book should be on anybody's list of cult fiction. You can't help but cheer for the protagonist.
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J. J. Connolly was born in London, United Kingdom, in 1964. He is the author of two crime novels, Layer Cake, and its sequel, Viva La Madness. He also wrote the screenplay of the film based on his novel.
His first novel, Layer Cake, was first published in 2000 by Duckworth Press. The book takes place in nineties London and is narrated by an unnamed, 29-year-old drug dealer ("If you knew my name, yo
“You’re born, you take shit

get out in the world, you take more shit

climb a little higher, take less shit.

till one day you're in the rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like.

Welcome to the layer cake, son.”
“It's like zen. Only not as subtle.” 4 likes
More quotes…