It's Manchester, July 1996, the month after the IRA bomb, and the Evening News is carrying reports of two murders. On the front page there's a photograph of a glamorous Egyptian woman, a socialite and heiress to an oil fortune, whose partially clothed body has been found in the basement of a block of flats. It would appear that she has been the subject of a sexual attack. In the back pages of the same paper there is a fifty-word piece on the murder of a young prostitute whose body has been found dumped on a roadside near the McVitie's Factory.
For Bane - fixer, loanshark and legman for one of Manchester's established ganglords - it's the second piece of news that hits hardest. Determined to find out what happened to his childhood sweetheart, he searches through the tribes and estates of his bombed city for answers. It soon becomes clear that the two newspaper stories belong on the same page, and that Bane's world belongs to others - those willing to profit from gun arsenals, human trafficking and a Manchester in decay.
The Doll Princess introduces the mesmeric narrator, Henry Bane, a conflicted man caught up in a mire of evil, and his creator, Tom Benn - an assured and exhilarating new voice in literary crime fiction.
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This punchy debut does for low-life Manchester what Trainspotting did for Leith. - Intelligent Life
The Doll Princess is a mighty, stick-to-your-fingers, amphetamine- and adrenaline-fuelled chase through an apocalyptic Manchester, written with taut and instinctive control and an admirable feel for weird and wonky poetry. It swaggers and struts and is amazingly accomplished for a writer so young. Subtitled 'Bane: Book One', the promise is of more to come. Very soon, I hope. -
With a carnival cast of bruisers, losers, mystics and psychonauts, Tom Benn's debut is both ribald and tender, delivered with the mordant wit of a latter-day John Cooper Clarke. This is a twister of a thriller and, at the same time, a love song to the rainy city at its core. -
Tom Benn, Stockport born and bred, is that rare thing. A startlingly new, ridiculously stylish, home-grown voice. Despite more than a casual nod to a rain-sodden Hulme dialect, Benn’s debut is so full of energy and sharp one-liners, it will travel far and wide. - Daily Mirror Book of the Week
Benn is a sharply observant writer with a great eye for detail, but what really makes this book a cut above the average gangland thriller is the character of Bane himself. - Guardian
The Doll Princess is a crime novel unlike any other; the voices of real people can be heard throughout its pages. - We Love This Book
Tom Benn, Stockport born and bred, is that rare thing. A startlingly new, ridiculously stylish, home-grown voice. Benn’s debut is so full of energy and sharp one-liners, it will travel far and wide. - Daily Mirror
I’ve never wanted to listen to the soundtrack to a book so much. Another element that stands out in the madly bloody but sometimes brilliant book is how the characters speak. Accents are notoriously tricky on the page, but Benn captures the south Manchester patter impressively… - Independent
Tom Benn is set to be one of the distinctive crime writers of his generation. In Henry Bane he has created a sharp, sarcastic anti-hero with his own warped sense of honour and a narrative that is truly distinctive. - Shots Crime & Thriller e-zine
A graduate of the UEA creative writing course, Benn is a sharply observant writer with a great eye for detail, but what really makes this book a cut above the average gangland thriller is the character of Bane himself. - The Guardian
A promising, foul-mouthed debut in which gangsters and good guys fight for supremacy in a Manchester that resembles a war zone. - Sunday Telegraph
[A] madly bloody but sometimes brilliant book. - The Independent