.....still three months until the launch of the next novel, Mystery Man, but it's nice to report some very positive early reaction. For those of you who like to keep up to date with what's happening locally as far as crime fiction is concerned, there's no better place for you to go than to Gerard Brennan's Crime Scene Northern Ireland website, and it's this very location which has run the very first review of the new book, having somehow gotten hold of a proof copy (!).
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.
So ta very much to Gerard, and do check out the site at : www.crimesceneni.blogspot.com
A few dates starting to filter in now for the launch of the book: there will be two launches really in Northern Ireland: the first on April 30th at Bangor Library, which is in my hometown, and then the following night in, of course, No Alibis.
Prior to that there I'll be appearing at the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway - the last time I was there was at least ten years ago. I understand I'll be sharing the stage with another Irish writer, Gene Kerrigan.
Then on to Paris in May, with one reading at the Irish Cultural Centre and another for the French library service two days later. Which means, unfortunately, that I'm going to miss out on crime writer Michael Connolly's visit to No Alibis, which falls between my two French dates. One idea No Alibis had was for me to interview him on stage, but sadly that's not now going to happen.