Before The Killing was a national fascination, before The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo captivated us, before even Wallander graced the page or screen, there was Martin Beck. I recently read an adventure starring Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s famous Swedish detective after it was recommended to me, because I enjoyed all of the above. As good as it was, I found this late 1960s crime novel to be very dry, and it suffered from focusing almost exclusively on the process of the investigation.
After finishing my first Martin Beck novel, I read the new darkly comic crime novel from Nick Bryan and found it to be the opposite of this. Rather than being focused on the nitty-gritty of the investigative process, Rush Jobs looks at character of the investigators and their story. This approach ensured that the book was a lively read and not too dry.
Rush Jobs is the second adventure of the mismatched duo of private investigators, Hobson and Choi. John Hobson is tough, cynical, street wise and violent at the drop of a hat. Angelina Choi is his social media savvy, optimistic, work experience student. In the second week of Choi’s work experience, the pair investigate the kidnapping of a supermarket employee, attempt to evict a group of chuggers from Peckham, and get tangled up in an illegal dog fighting and drug smuggling ring. During this, Hobson’s shady past comes back to haunt him, and he has to do some soul-searching as to the type of person he is. Meanwhile, Choi must navigating the perils of teenage life and decide if she really wants to keep working in the murky world of private investigation.
About the Author
Nick Bryan is a London-based writer of genre fiction, usually with some blackly comic twist. As well as the detective saga Hobson & Choi, he is also working on a novel about the real implications of deals with the devil and has stories in several anthologies.
When not reading or writing books, Nick Bryan enjoys racquet sports, comics and a nice white beer.
The structure of Rush Jobs is very different to most crime novels. Rather than the narrative being based around the progression of a single case, the story follows the characters on their personal journeys. The novel’s strong character development really makes this work, and we see how Hobson and Choi’s trust in each other grows as the narrative progresses.
The two eponymous characters have substance, are funny and are engaging. They are also realistic, flawed human beings, which makes them complex and their stories much more interesting. This is especially true of Hobson, whose attempts to redeem himself for terrible things he did in the past is the focus of the character arc. The novel also explores the idea of whether Hobson can change as a person enough to recognize the benefit of Choi’s more delicate approach to investigating.
Most fascinating is how the two characters relate to each other, they are very different but clearly work well together on a professional and personal level. Choi is our window into Hobson’s dark crime underworld, and the reader finds out about how this sinister version of London works at the same time as she does. To fulfill this role, Choi is a relatable teenager, and goes through many of the normal trials of youth - friend angst, teenage crushes – as well having to survive life as a PI’s assistant.
Hobson & Choi Series by Nick Bryan
The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi #1)
"If we get 400 followers, John Hobson will solve that nasty wolf-murder case for free! Fight the thing himself if he has to! #HobsonVsWolf!"
Angelina Choi was only trying to drum up some Twitter followers and make a good impression on her first day interning at John Hobson's one-man detective agency.
But the campaign went viral and now they have a murder to solve, no money coming in, and an unwilling Hobson faced with battling some enormous beast.
With both follower and body counts rising, can they crack the case without offending everyone or being eaten by a huge dog?
The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf is the first case starring Hobson & Choi, a bickering, mismatched detective duo for 21st century London. This book collects the debut storyline of the hit darkly comic crime web serial, extensively rewritten and improved for this definitive edition.
Over the entire arc sits the question of what will happen at the end of Choi’s work experience? Do they like each other enough to continue? Can Choi forgive Hobson for the terrible things he did in his past? These important character issues are handled with humor and warmth.
The focus on character story over the crime narrative has the net result of reducing the tension in the book. Rush Jobs focuses on three related crime cases, and the tension of each rises quickly and is then resolved. A single crime narrative running through the entire novel would have built up greater tension. The revelation of Hobson’s past with the villainous Rush Recruitment comes too early in the narrative, as that story is resolved by the halfway point, which removes the sense of mystery.
This character-based approach makes the reader want to read more of Hobson and Choi’s adventures, and was key to the story’s success when it was a web serial on JukePop Serial. Bryan has successfully translated it from the weekly serial format into a complete and engaging novel, with great cliffhangers and a consistent sense of humour running throughout. However, the serial nature of the on-going story is still apparent, and I would have found the plot of Rush Jobs very difficult to follow if I had not already read the first volume, The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf.
Rush Jobs (Hobson & Choi #2)
“Sometimes #crime feels like the Matrix. Or the #patriarchy or #porn. It's everywhere, even in people you trusted, and there's so MUCH of it.”
Angelina Choi returns for her second and final week of work experience at John Hobson’s detective agency, ready for anything after their first successful murder solve.
After all that online buzz, they’re in phenomenal demand. Can Hobson & Choi solve a kidnapping, play chicken with corporate crime, beat back gentrification, save a dog from drug dealers and head off violent backlash from their last case?
Or will grim revelations about Hobson’s past leave them floundering in the chaos?
Rush Jobs collects the second major storyline in the Hobson & Choi saga, #1 on Jukepop Serials and #2 in Dark Comedy on Amazon, adding brand new chapters and scenes to the case.
Rush Jobs is a hilarious mismatched-buddy crime caper, underpinned by excellent character development. There is great humour in Choi explaining Twitter to Hobson and in Hobson’s hatred of all things internet-based or seemingly hipster in origin. The back-and-forth dialogue between the two characters is frequently laugh-out-loud funny. The prose is compelling, the dialogue is witty and the reader gets a real sense of going on a journey with the characters.
The humour of the novel gives it a sense of warmth, whereas the crimes that the pair investigate give it a sense of tension. On balance, I would say the book is more funny than tense. This could be because the multi-threaded nature of the crime story means there is not a progressive build up of tension. The stakes to do not seem high, and a real sense of threat to Hobson or Choi does not materialise. The climax competently resolved the stories but does not have the intensity of some of the works mentioned in the first paragraph. That said, there is more than enough humour in this book to make it a great read.
Rush Jobs (and the other Hobson and Choi stories) has a great pair of characters who are lively, sarcastic and engaging. The story whips the reader along; this is a book which is hard to put down. The masterfully handled character arcs give this a sense of being a real and believable story. The two characters at its core are very likeable and the reader is left wanting more from them. Also the bonus story at the end of the book is very strong, and should not missed under any circumstances.
A lot of dry, procedural crime novels would benefit from Bryan’s character-based approach, which is entertaining, clever and hilarious. The multi-threaded plot and the character-based approach make it fast paced and interesting. The story is light hearted and fun, a good read. This is one book I would highly recommend.