Thursday, 30 April 2009

A Wee Review - Mystery Man by Colin Bateman


There’s a new PI in Belfast. His qualifications? He owns No Alibis, a bookshop specialising in crime fiction. Is he a fast-talking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing tough guy? Um, no. Not at all, really. He’s a bit... well, he’s cut from a different cloth. Oh, and he most definitely is not David Torrans.

Mystery Man is a Belfast crime fiction comedy in which our protagonist (a man with no name) tackles the cases he’s inherited from one of the few ‘real’ PIs in town. Malcolm Carlyle, the proprietor of Private Eye, a private investigation firm situated next to No Alibis bookshop, has apparently skipped town; leaving many a loose end untied. In desperation, his abandoned clients have started trickling into No Alibis for help. Handpicking a few cases, to pass the time more than anything else, the narrator makes a bit of a hobby out of tracking down scorned girlfriends or elusive items of clothing. It’s a nice distraction. Well, it’s nice up until he gets involved in The Case of the Dancing Jew.

This is probably Bateman’s most comedic novel to date, with practically a laugh a paragraph guaranteed. Some of the humour can make you feel a little guilty for laughing. To Bateman, political correctness is something that happens to other people, it would seem. It’s actually quite refreshing. The rest of the humour is of the semi-self-aware, self-deprecating variety that comes from the small revelations of the narrator’s personality. Each little nugget of information gradually builds to form one of the finest protagonists I’ve ever read. Yes, he even gives Dan Starkey a run for his money.

In the early chapters, you could well believe that Bateman has chosen to have a go at writing a modern-day cosy; a slightly bumbling detective logically solves a few minor mysteries. Then the dead bodies start to show up. In abundance. And as Dan Starkey has said more than once, “The jigsaw thickens!” Bateman looks beyond the Troubles (well, apart from a few political wisecracks – it’s set in Belfast, after all) and brings a different evil into the Northern Irish mix. Even at his most light-hearted and funniest, Bateman can’t resist dragging the reader over to his dark side. And, you know, it wouldn’t be half the experience it is if he didn’t.

So, accompanied by a dreadful shop assistant, a beautiful and quirky sidekick and a personality defect or three, Bateman’s latest protagonist really spins a terrific yarn. And it’s possible that he’s taking on Starkey’s torch as the new Bateman series character. In fact, Bateman has announced on his blog that he’s already halfway through the follow up, Day of the Jack Russell. If anybody is going to replace Belfast’s most infamous reporter and anti-hero, let it be the Mystery Man.

You should look forward to April 2009, when you can get your hands on a copy. Mystery Man will give you more laughs than a room full of rabbis and priests. This being the follow up to the more serious Orpheus Rising, you just never know where Bateman is going to take the loyal reader next. You do know that it’s a place worth visiting, though.

Pre-order this book now!

18 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

Oh he's a case is Mister Bateman so he is. I'm looking forward to this one. I could do with a good laugh and Mr. B hasnt disappointed me yet (except for his unkind and misdirected enmity towards Carrick).

Also two or three more books and I'll have an entire shelf just for the Bateman books. Doubtless in a few years we'll be calling it the Bateman Room.

Good to hear too that its set in the Botanic. Does my beloved Abbakebabra get a mention?

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - I'm afraid the character doesn't have the same love for Abrakebabra as you or I. He's a Starbucks man all the way.

Dundrum gets mention though! Once.

Cheers

gb

adrian mckinty said...

it wasnt in a sheep related context was it?

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Shush. I don't want you giving him ideas for the second book.

gb

Michael Stone said...

Sheep? Oh Adrian, you're a bad man to malign Dundrum so.

Gerard, do you realise how close I am to embarking on a massive first edition hardbacks-for-preference, wallet-knackering Bateman hunt? Reviews like this don't help.

Gerard Brennan said...

Mike - Apologies. Couldn't help it, though. Blame Bateman.

gb

Stuart Neville said...

My only concern about the book being set in No Alibis is that when the launch is held there it will cause some sort of rip in the time-space continuum - a book launched in its own setting is kind of like Marty McFly meeting his own mum as a teenager, isn't it?

Either way, I shall attend.

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - I think you might be right, man. Think I'll throw my spare Flux Capacitor in my backpack that night. And I'll see you there.

gb

bookwitch said...

If I didn't already have a copy of Mystery Man (unread, so far), I'd be really annoyed with you for posting a review this early. Have you no consideration for the suffering a tempting review will cause?

How does one get invited to the launch?

Gerard Brennan said...

Bookwitch - Thanks for stopping by. I'm honoured.

I had considered other people's feelings. Briefly. Then I decided this would be more fun. I'll repost it on the publication date, though.

RE the launch, just give David at No Alibis a call when the launch is announced. He's very accommodating. He'll even stand you a few glasses of wine.

gb

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

I know we're a couple of posts further on but I just Read this worrying news from the BBC. Puts a whole not complexion on fings.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - I was absolutely appalled by this revelation, then I found this nugget:

"Northern Ireland's average of 843 [calories] was the lowest in the UK."

I can live with that. For at least twenty years, anyway.

Journalistic sensationalism, I reckon.

gb

Peter Rozovsky said...

Awrught, when's the launch?
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - (Still catching up) The No Alibis launch will be on the 1st of May, I believe. There's also one in Bangor (Colin's home town) Library on the 30th April.

Cheers

gb

Peter Rozovsky said...

OK, thanks. I was just wondering if it might be happening around the time of Crimefest in Bristol, but it's a couple of weeks earlier.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - Ah, that's a pity. Would have been great to see you in Belfast again.

gb

Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I'll see what happens with the travel plans. I should have just about two weeks all told, with just four days for the conference. I have no commitments yet for the rest of the time, so I suppose there's at least a chance I could visit Belfast to watch you drink some more Carlsberg.
==============
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - Now that my kids are a little older, I might get away with drinking more of it. Maybe in Bristol if I'm lucky.

Cheers

gb