Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Layer Cake

by J.J. Connolly

“British author Connolly’s first novel is a cool and sinuous crime story, smothered in street jargon and suffused with an abiding love of all that’s illegal. . . . Connolly knows how to spin a good yarn . . . . A walloping debut that could well presage a wave of Brit crime lit heading for these shores.” –Kirkus Reviews

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date September 23, 2004
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4168-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $12.00

About The Book

Our narrator’s too smart to tell you his name (“if I [did], you’d be as clever as me”), but he’s not afraid to tell you everything else about the “layer cake” –London’s intricately arranged constellation of underworld fiefdoms. He’s a drug dealer who’s planning to retire on his thirtieth birthday–after one last great score–to a life as “a gentleman of leisure.” Only problem is his boss, the crime kingpin ‘don” Jimmy Price, has other plans. He can walk away from the life for good only if he can track down a runaway daughter for Jimmy’s old friend.

Complicating matters are two million top-grade Ecstasy tablets that were robbed from a factory in Amsterdam by a renegade outfit in Jimmy’s employ who are now looking for someone to offload the ill-gotten loot. With an angry mob of German neo-Nazis in hot pursuit, and all crosses and double-crosses leading back to Jimmy, our narrator finds he may have to negotiate a new exit strategy to finally get his slice of the cake.

With a rich supporting cast of dozens of characters, from Tommy Garret, aka Billy Bogus, a grifter with an uncanny gift for impersonation, to Sir Alex, chief chemical taster and a “boy who knows his drugs,” Layer Cake is a gripping, linguistically inventive thriller, a cross between Irvine Welsh and Dennis Lehane that keeps you turning the pages until the very end.

Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon, and Colm Meaney, was released in May 2005 by Sony Pictures.


“British author Connolly’s first novel is a cool and sinuous crime story, smothered in street jargon and suffused with an abiding love of all that’s illegal. . . . Connolly knows how to spin a good yarn . . . . A walloping debut that could well presage a wave of Brit crime lit heading for these shores.” –Kirkus Reviews

“A flawless, lightning-swift pulp crime drama, rich in the language of the British underworld . . . a brilliantly crafted, linguistically dense, European wise-guy tale. Readers will find themselves funning for the triumph of lesser evil.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“A stunningly original debut . . . Connolly’s slice of low life is utterly mesmerizing. A two-thumbs-up effort by a talented British newcomer.” –Booklist

Layer Cake is a storming piece of work: funny and serious by turns with an abiding sense of conviction . . . the novel has a grasp of street argot unparalleled since Kinky Friedman first sashayed out of his front door.” –D. J.

Taylor, The Guardian (UK)

“If the brilliantly written and intriguing Layer Cake is anything to go by, [Connolly] will soon be a name to whet the appetites of readers and critics alike.” –The Times (London)

“Once I’d read a few pages I was hooked. . . . Connolly’s style is fast and funny and just frightening enough to make you sit up all night finishing the book. Layer Cake could easily emulate [The Sopranos]’s success if made into a television series.” –Independent on Sunday

‘mission accomplished. One novel in, and Connolly has hit the jackpot, jump-started British crime fiction into the present. . . . Like good drug fiction, you’re given glamour and squalor, a voyeuristic thrill, and the bill.” –Uncut (Five-star rating)

“Connolly displays the same infectious relish for underworld argot as Elizabethan writers fascinated by rogues’ cant, and his ostensibly artless plotting is as rich in double and triple crosses as a spy thriller.” –The Sunday Times (London)

“An immensely entertaining read.” –The Spectator (UK)

“This year’s crime read should be J.J. Connolly’s Layer Cake.” –Mike Pattenden, The Times (UK)

“By far and away the best piece of crime pulp fiction either side of the Atlantic since Seth Morgan’s Homeboy and a Get Carter for the chemical generation.” –Paul Dale, The List

“J.J. Connolly has created the caper of the year . . . it’s fantastic.” –Bizarre

“A linguistic fairground, the characters chat with an authenticity that’s intoxicating. Wannabe geezers would look plumy next to these boys, and yet just a few pages in the language opens up like some forgotten playground.” –Pil

“Fantastic. The best crime novel I’ve ever read.” –Bruce Reynolds


Hello, Hello, Hello

I parked the motor under a streetlight so there’s less chance of anyone breaking into it. I locked it up, got my briefcase outta the back and was walking towards my gaff. I’m preoccupied with my work. Suddenly a flashlight’s pointed straight in my face. I’ve squinted, I’m alarmed. The light’s gone down my body. It’s the law, I’ve thought. The game’s up cos I’ve got in the case two kilos of top quality, very pukka, recently imported, cocaine. It’s about forty kay or twelve years’ worth, depending how you look at it, what tariff you wanna use. I’ve got electronic jewellery scales and Manatol, Italian baby laxative, on board as well. I’m gutted cos I very, very rarely take my work home with me and to get nicked on this rare occasion would slaughter me. Don’t do anything stupid, don’t do anything at all, take a deep breath and don’t even think about running.

Relax, work it out, stop holding your breath, cos if they had come for you, you’d be on the deck now, cuffed up and getting the old “you do not have to say anything, blah blah blah” routine.
‘sorry, Sir, you okay?” He’s genuinely apologetic. “Only we’ve had reports of a prowler in the area.”
“A prowler, you say, well well. And there’s only the two of you? Maybe you should call for some assistance.”
“We’re a bit stretched already tonight, Sir.”
“That’s too bad. I’ll ring the station if I see or hear anything.”
“Thank you, Sir. Good night. Be careful.”
“Oh, I will be.”
They carry on looking for the burglar in among the bushes and I go upstairs to weave that special kinda magic that turns two kilos into three.