Joe the leader of a gang of Belfast yobs called the Wee Rockets has decided it’s time to leave the gang. Not because he feels in any way bad about what he does, but because he’s growing faster than the other gang members, and he’s worried that this will make him easier to recognise. At the same time, concerned local citizen and vigilante wannabe, Stephen McVeigh is desperate to do something about the Wee Rockets gang and stop them from attacking innocent pensioners in the area. He starts investigating, which brings him into contact with Joe and Joe’s mother, with whom he starts a relationship. Joe eventually passes the Rockets leadership over to Liam, a fat loser who desperately wants to be respected. The moment Liam takes control of the gang he ups the ante and, instead of playing safe like Joe, he gets them to move into robbing stores and younger people, because the takings are bigger. And when Joe’s criminal father also appears on the scene after many years away, the scene is set for mayhem that ultimately leads to fatalities.
Wee Rockets is the first Brennan that I have read and I must say that I was impressed by the confidence and fluidity of his writing. He is very good at fast scene-setting and renders his characters nicely in only a few sentences. The dialogue is also spot-on, with a nice grasp of how people really speak. The plotting is well handled, though I did have a few minor issues with the ending, which leaves one particular character still walking the streets when he should really be behind bars after all the mayhem he has caused. But, like I said, it’s a minor issue rather than a big deal, and is more than offset by Brennan’s confident storytelling abilities and his excellent characters. I like the fact that Joe, despite his occasional sentimental moment, remains a scumbag throughout. I also like the way that Liam’s transition from fat loser to remorseless gang-leader is realistically handled in terms of motivation. Like so many of Blasted Heath’s other publications this is an excellent crime thriller and marks them out as one of the most exciting new publishers around. Highly recommended.