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From Aberystwyth With Love by Malcolm Pryce
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From Aberystwyth With Love (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Malcolm Pryce

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1069113,849 (3.53)9
Member:DeltaQueen50
Title:From Aberystwyth With Love
Authors:Malcolm Pryce
Info:Bloomsbury (2009), Paperback, 271 pages
Collections:Wishlist
Rating:
Tags:Crime Fiction, Wales, Humor, Aberystwyth Series (5)

Work details

From Aberystwyth with Love by Malcolm Pryce (2009)

*** (1) *Aberystwyth (10) 5 (1) 2011 (2) alternate history (1) crime (11) crime fiction (5) detective (6) detective fiction (4) ebook (4) fantasy (3) fiction (21) hardboiled (2) humor (14) Kindle (4) Louie Knight (8) murder (2) murder mystery (1) mystery (5) noir (4) novel (1) O (1) pastiche (2) read (2) Russia (2) thriller (1) to-read (3) unread (2) Wales (15) Welsh noir (2)
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I had't read any of this series in a while, and it was a great pleasure to return to the altiverse of Aberystwyth Noir. Deftly daft, very funny, inventive, and revelling in its own quirks. Because of these very qualities I full appreciate why this series is a bit of a Marmite read and polarises opinion. ( )
  ten_floors_up | Jun 16, 2012 |
This is a strange combination of styles (crime, pastiche, humour, occasional philosophical musings) that is readable (as I finished it), but for me ultimately unsatisfying. It felt contrived as if someone had decided to write offbeat crime novels, rather than developing the characters and finding where that took them. It also reminded me of Jasper Fforde, in that the humour and the similar, but surreal, alternative world came to feel laboured.
There are some nice characters, but I did not feel involved and they felt stereotyped.
I appreciate that it is fifth in a series and I undoubtedly lost something by not having read previous novels, but the author (or editor) was skilful in supplying the background history in an unobtrusive manner.
It feels as if it might all come together and work, but it is trying too hard to tick all the boxes that the author feels should be covered, without letting the main characters develop enough themselves. Readable, but disappointing. ( )
  CarltonC | Apr 29, 2012 |
I was, naively, expecting a proper detective novel when I started From Aberystwyth With Love, but it's actually more of a surrealist melange, with some detective tropes studded in it like cloves in a baked ham. The book's much-vaunted humour failed to materialise for me, but Pryce's Dali-via-Cymru stylings still offer some bursts of heady, intense flavour worth savoring.

Louie Knight's latest case concerns happenings far beyond pedestrian county borders. Crossing time, the iron curtain and even the barriers between life and death itself, he will find himself tangling with spinning wheel salesmen, honey-pots, jovial Russians and morose ice cream makers before the case is cracked.

So, aside from myself, anyone reading this - the fifth book in a series - is almost certainly familiar with previous novels. I wasn't, and was surprised to realise that It's Wales, Jim, but not as we know it. Pryce has created a surreal parallel universe where few rules apply and almost anything can happen. Sometimes books like this frustrate me because the author is happy to write themselves into - and out of - any pickle they desire with the flimiest of devices, but to his credit Pryce tries to maintain some kind of coherent narrative, albeit one with many detours.

These detours themselves - into pastiche, small sketches, otherworldly ramblings etc - certainly adhere to few rules, but Pryce's writing was generally good enough to get me across the line. Additionally, he's not afraid to put things at stake in this ostensibly silly world. Things matter in From Aberystwyth With Love, and it gives the book an emotional heft that really elevates it above similar efforts in the genre.

This said, the litany of comments testifying to his terrific humour were lost on me. I smirked once in the entire book, and that was as far it got. I don't find many books funny, true, but unless absurdism is inherently hilarious to you, I wouldn't be expecting a laugh riot here. On the bright side, Pryce largely eschews the cheap "spot the reference" post-modernist jokes that generally plague books like this (Jasper Fforde is a particularly egregious offender in this category. Pryce is both a better writer, and better humourist than Fforde in my opinion). So whilst I didn't find the novel funny, by the same token I didn't find it un-funny.

Of course, all these shenanigans and rapid plot-turnings do limit how much emotional weight the book can carry. Whilst Pryce tries to load it with a few profound or touching moments, by the conclusion it was difficult to buy into them too much, so the book certainly won't stay with me. An interesting novel, pleasing enough as an hors d'oeuvres, but likely to be a little too piquant and airy as a main. ( )
2 vote patrickgarson | Apr 4, 2012 |
'The sock is from the Hughesovka Museum Of Our Forefathers' Suffering. I used to be the principal curator. As you know, this museum charts the centuries of tyranny and oppression that caused that great Welsh Moses, John Hughes, to throw off the imperialist yoke and lead his people out of servitude to the promised land.'
'Is there really such a place as Hughesovka?'
'You ask such a thing of me?'
'We learned about it in school; they told us it was the only Welsh-speaking community east of the Greenwich meridian – it always struck me as improbable.'
'In our schools we found tales of Aberystwyth equally hard to credit.


A Welsh Russian named Uncle Vanya asks Louie and Calamity to find out what happened to a young girl called Gethsemane Walters, who disappeared from the town of Abercuawg near Aberystwyth over thirty years before, and pays their fee with one of Yuri Gagarin's socks! The investigation takes Louie and Calamity to the drowned village of Abercuawg which is now reappearing from under the reservoir due to a prolonged drought, and then to Hughesovka disguised as spinning-wheel salesmen, before they work out what happened to Gethsemane and to Uncle Vanya's daughter.

Much to my surprise, I found that Hughesovka (aka Yuzovka, later renamed Stalino and now called Donetsk) is a real place, although John Hughes was from Merthyr Tydfil not Aberystwyth and almost all the Welsh workers returned to Britain after the Russian Revolution.

Although quite sad in parts, this was much more fun than the previous book in the series, "Don't Cry For Me, Aberystwyth". ( )
  isabelx | Jan 15, 2012 |
You either like these surreal plots or you don't. I do, and I am impressed at how the author manages to build and sustain a coherent alternative reality. ( )
  VictorTrevor | Dec 18, 2011 |
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To Tony, Marie, Ryan and Daniel
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For a while He just sat there and hovered, taking it one step at a time.
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Private detective Louie Knight had heard the stories, he'd heard about the legendary replica of Aberystwyth built in the Ukraine by some crazy 19th-century Czar. But he didn't believe it. But all that changed when the museum curator of the fabled Shangri-la turned up in his office with a crazy tale of love, death, madness and betrayal.… (more)

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