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From Aberystwyth With Love by Malcolm Pryce

From Aberystwyth With Love (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Malcolm Pryce

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1261195,586 (3.6)15
Title:From Aberystwyth With Love
Authors:Malcolm Pryce
Info:Bloomsbury (2009), Paperback, 271 pages
Tags:Crime Fiction, Wales, Humor, Aberystwyth Series (5)

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From Aberystwyth with Love by Malcolm Pryce (2009)



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This 5th instalment of the noir pastiche series has private detective Louie Knight and his partner Calamity employed by Uncle Vanya to find out what happened to a girl that went missing 30 years ago from the neighbouring town of Abercuawg, now submerged by the lake formed after they built a dam. It seems as though the spirit of the missing girl inhabited Uncle Vanya's daughter over in Hughesovska (a replica town of Aberystwyth built in the Ukraine) so he's trying to understand what happened so he can come to terms with the events that followed. It might mean a trip to Hughesovska for Louie and Calamity so they enlist the services of Mooncalf & Sons for their travel arrangements and also to fence the sock they got from Uncle Vanya as payment for taking the case. Mooncalf can do them a good deal on the trip if they agree to make a delivery for him to a friendly count in Transylvania. He can even help with disguises. They'll travel as spinning wheel salesmen via the Orient Express but will have to watch out for honey trappers. As the investigation continues it may or may not involve trolls, bearded ladies, snuff philatelists and fish milt flavoured ice-cream.

This was another quite dark entry into the series but still contains enough humour to raise a smile every now and then. There's also a certain amount of emotional weight within these pages as Louie contemplates his relationship with Calamity and his own father. It's also been my least favourite of the 5 books I've read so far. I hope that the series isn't running out of steam as there is still one that I haven't gotten to as yet. It's not a bad book and is quite readable, it's just not quite on a par with the others as far as I'm concerned. A shame as I enjoyed the last one quite a lot. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Sep 13, 2016 |
I enjoyed this in the end. I bought the book originally for a friend but decided to keep it for myself in the end, partly out of curiosity and partly because I wasn't sure she would like it. In retrospect, she may well have liked it as it is set in Aberystwyth for the most part, which was why I bought it, as we had both studied there. It is always fun to read about a place that you know, and see it from another perspective. The story is about Louie Knight, a private detective, one of many books by Malcolm Pryce based on this character in and around Aberystwyth. In this book, Louie Knight also takes a short trip by train to Hughsovka, "...the legendary replica of Aberystwyth built in the Ukraine..." via Transylvania. An interesting and funny detour. There is comedy, and drama, and mystery. It took me a while to get into as I had come to the book thinking it might be a bit like Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - which I loved. It wasn't, although there was a bit of such humour when Louie Knights' assistant, Calamity, talks of "superseding the paradigm" as a method of solving their mystery. It took me a while to get into the book because I had to adjust my preconceptions to it, and also because I was always reading late at night when I was too tired to read. But it got more interesting towards the end as they solved their mystery painstakingly through their encounters with the colourful characters of Aberystwyth and on their trip to Hughsovka. I liked that themystery was solved, but some matters were deliberately left unresolved. A bittersweet ending. Not bad at all. I might read the other books in the series. ( )
  LindaLiu | Nov 25, 2014 |
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 |
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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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