Book Review: Simon R. Green’s The Dark Side of the Road

Posted October 5, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Simon R. Green’s The Dark Side of the Road

The Dark Side of the Road


Simon R. Green

mystery, urban fantasy that was published by Severn House Publishers on May 1, 2015 and has 224 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Something From the Nightside, Mean Streets, Agents of Light and Darkness, Nightingale's Lament, Paths Not Taken, Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth, Hell to Pay, Just Another Judgement Day, The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny, A Hard Day's Knight, Hex and the City, The Unnatural Inquirer, The Bride Wore Black Leather, Home Improvement: Undead Edition, Hex Appeal, Man with the Golden Torc, Daemons are Forever, The Spy Who Haunted Me, From Hell with Love, For Heaven's Eyes Only, Live and Let Drood, Casino Infernale, Blue Moon Rising, Tales of the Hidden World, Blood and Honor, From a Drood to a Kill, Dead Man Walking, Very Important Corpses, Moonbreaker, Dr. DOA

First in the Ishmael Jones mystery urban fantasy series and revolving around a man who stays under the radar this Christmas of 2013.

My Take

It’s easy to tell this is a Simon Green, if only by his writing, his approach in his stories, and those comic-style names for the bad guys. That said, it doesn’t feel like a Nightside or Secret Histories tale. Not quite as outrageous, lol.

It’s obvious, clichéd, and full of tropes. Think murdering country house party à la Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None crossed with the supernatural with all the backstabbing you hate to see in a soap opera of horrific possibilities. It’s a sad fall from the plenitude of family with so many of them dead and the table bare with the business failing — and I’m really curious if it’s Walter’s or Khan’s mishandling.

I like Ishmael’s firm stance and his moral code. I also enjoy his snarky attitude, lol. Where things get really interesting is in how long he’s been alive and the interaction he has had with different guests: as Adam, Diana Helm’s lover in 1969 during her dancing heyday and as a Black Heir operative from 1982 to 1987 with Khan.

I like Ishmael’s moves too, as he shows ’em all why it’s not a good idea to go up against him. I’m looking forward to reading more of his adventures, even if I do feel like crying for the Colonel. Green has set up such an amazing back history in The Dark Side of the Road, that I have trouble remembering this is only the first in the series.

I don’t know what the Cook’s problem is. She and her partner have been hired as security. And Khan, well, I despised Khan. Until the end. As for that unexpected move towards the end…why couldn’t he have stepped forward sooner? Was it because of the truth of his existence? Green was stretching things out?

“‘I’m so sorry. I killed your mother.’

‘That’s all right,’ said Penny. ‘We weren’t close.'”

The ending was clichéd and reminded me of the ending of Casablanca with that ending comment from Renault, and they walk off with “…the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

I will give Green props for a complete story full of possibilities.

The Story

It’s the prodigal son returning home, so to speak, for the Colonel hasn’t been back home for the past many, many years.

Also invited to this country house Christmas is Ishmael Jones, one of the Colonel’s operatives, for something is threatening the Colonel’s family.

And the Colonel will need all the help he can get to stop it.

The Characters

Ishmael Jones is the name he’s using these days. He “searches out secrets, investigates mysteries, and shines a light into dark places”. Sometimes punishing the guilty. His past began in 1963.

It’s been fifteen years since Ishamael first signed on with the Colonel, who heads up the Organization for which Ishmael works in exchange for protection from those who hunt him.

Belcourt Manor is…
…the Colonel’s — James Belcourt‘s — childhood home. Walter Belcourt is the Colonel’s father and still chairman of the board. Melanie is his scheming second wife. Penelope is Walter and Melanie’s slutty daughter who works in publishing. The dissatisfied Diana Helm Belcourt is Walter’s first wife and James’ mother. The predatory Sylvia Heron is Diana’s companion. Roger Levine was once engaged to Penelope and still wants to be, despite her dislike. Jeeves is the butler while Ms. Leilah Bridges, the dissatisfied cook, is the only other servant who agreed to work over Christmas.

Alexander Khan is Walter’s business partner, and a former Black Heir operative who betrayed the organization. Ishmael doesn’t like that he’s very ready to terminate any alien.

Black Heir is…
…a very secret U.K. organization for alien affairs.

The Cover and Title

The cover is cold and lonely with the bulky figure of Ishamel Jones trudging down the snow-rutted road, trees arching over it with fat flakes of snow coming down, some hit by the camera light into perfect circles of varying transparency. The series information, author’s name (blackened in places), and title are all in white.

The title is where Ishamel travels, on The Dark Side of the Road.