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Aberystwyth Mon Amour (2001)
by Malcolm Pryce
No current Talk conversations about this book.
6/10 (not bad): I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. I enjoy offbeat, quirky British humour, but Malcolm Pryce is no Pratchett or Douglas Adams. In the end, it was a bit of a curate's egg.
The first of Malcolm Pryce's Louie Knight Mysteries introduces us to a world where the language and mores of a Raymond Chandler novel are transported to the small Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth. The local bars are replaced by an ice cream vendor and a 24 hour whelk stall, the girls at the strip club dress in flirtatious versions of Welsh national costume. As this suggests, the version of Wales Pryce presents is slightly surreal, with witchcraft and runes and a town council run by a mob of corrupt Druids. Wales is a former colonial power, a disastrous attempt to conquer Patagonia staining the national conscience (“the Welsh Vietnam”).
Louie Knight, the town's only private eye, is asked to look into the disappearance of a stripper's cousin, and becomes enmeshed in the murder of several schoolboys and, of course, a plot that threatens the town. He narrates the proceedings like Philip Marlowe, which nicely counterpoints the small town setting and the Welsh accents that come across in the dialogue.
Aberystwyth Mon Amour is an interesting, light read, but suffers from an unevenness of tone. While there are many witty, comic moments, Pryce doesn't quite seem to know how to tread the line between this and the darkness in the story – both the inherent darkness in the murders and the themes of loss and displacement that permeate the book. This uncertainty also seems to affect how distant from our reality this Aberystwyth is; for me he could have embraced the surreal aspects more, and indeed seems to do so toward the end of the book. It was somewhat reminiscent of the world of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next, a reality skewed from our own at a rakish angle, but I felt that Pryce's reality needs to be slightly better defined. I'm intrigued to see how his style develops; if the tone and setting can solidify then it may well a thoroughly enjoyable series.
The next book is [b:Last Tango in Aberystwyth|398082|Last Tango in Aberystwyth (Aberystwyth Noir, #2)|Malcolm Pryce|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1174426645s/398082.jpg|387540] and the third [b:The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth|828415|The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth (Aberystwyth Noir, #3)|Malcolm Pryce|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1178735314s/828415.jpg|12518], which I think may just be the best book title of all time.
Hmm. Bit of a mixed bag this one. Set in an alternate Aberystwyth run by the Druids, private investigator Louie Knight walks those mean streets trying to find out who's killing off local schoolboys. And why is headmaster and chief Druid Lovespoon building an Ark. What is the secret of the doomed raid on Rio Caeriog during the Welsh-Patagonian War....no stay with me here. Amusing but a big saggy in the middle, this is a good book to while away the hours if you have nothing better to read. I suspect this is the best of the series.
Funny in parts... but overall rather too silly, 14 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Aberystwyth Mon Amour (Paperback)
A take-off of Raymond Chandler's detective novels, but instead of the clubs and speak-easies of 50s America, the action takes place in the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth. A town where the Druids definitely run the show, where the lovely Myfanwy Montez sings in the Moulin Goch club, and where "Usual is it?" refers not to a scotch on the rocks but a double with extra ripple. And where meetings take place at the 24 hour a day whelk stall, or in an abandoned caravan (accompanied by a cuppa soup with a dash of rum.)
There were several laugh-out-loud moments for me, not least the description of Dai Brainbocs, a gifted youth who has disappeared:
"Brilliant at ...just about everything he turned his hand to. He spent last summer transcribing Proust's 'A la Recherche du Temps Perdu' into runes."
But the plotline did degenerate into extreme silliness by the end. Nonetheless have ordered my Welsh sister-in-law a copy as she hails from Borth and will, I think, find it entertaining.
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Schoolboys are disappearing all over Aberystwyth and nobody knows why. Louie Knight, the town's private investigator, soon realises that it is going to take more than a double ripple from Sospan, the philosopher cum ice-cream seller, to help find out what is happening to these boys and whether or not Lovespoon, the Welsh teacher, Grand Wizard of the Druids and controller of the town, is more than just a sinister bully. And just who was Gwenno Guevara?
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The book sustains the world weary tone all the way through and is very entertaining. I don't know how he managed to match the real town so well with his parallel world - but he did. ( )