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by Malcolm Pryce
Bloomsbury, June 2002
245 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0747557861

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Former aluminium salesman and advertising copywriter, Malcolm Pryce, should not have too much trouble selling Aberystwyth Mon Amour to the suspense/mystery readership. At first glance (and I use the word advisedly) the book would appear to be hard-boiled , complete with pulp type artwork cover, but once the reader begins his real perusal that impression evaporates. The novel is neither hard-boiled nor yet soft-boiled. I would venture to describe it as scrambled.

Pryce obviously has a taste for exotic locales - he worked for a time in Singapore, finished the first draft of this, his debut novel off the coast of Guyana and now lives in Bangkok. And could one find a more exotic location for the action of this narrative than Aberystwyth? Better not answer that one!

Louie Knight, principal of Knight Errant Investigations (it seemed a good name at the time) has his office above an orthopaedic boot shop in Canticle Street. One day his cleaning lady, Mrs. Llantrisant, is thrilled and excited to tell him that a famous dancer, Myfanwy Montez, is waiting for him in his inner sanctum. Myfanwy's cousin, Evans the Boot, has gone missing and she wants Louie to find him. Her cousin is an adolescent, still a schoolboy, and a little digging enables Louie to discover that some of the lad's peers have been vanishing then dying mysteriously.

Along the way Louie acquires a sidekick, teenage Calamity Jane, she of uncanny knowledge about the future. He is plunged into the evil heartland of the town - the ice cream parlour run by the sinister Sospan and the Moulin, run by the arch fiends of the town, the Druids. It is here than Myfanwy and other ladies of ill repute ply their wicked trade. Bianca, a colleague of Myfanwy and sometime girl friend of Pikel, a former school contemporary of Louie's (and a pale reflection of Quasimodo) who looks after the town clock, falls in love (of course) with Louie. Then there is the obsession of the burghers of Aberystwyth - Ludo! And the body count continues to mount with the victims being disposed of in ghastly ways - how about being dissolved in lactic acid at the cheese factory? Evil characters abound : two of the Druids are the wicked Headmaster Lovespoon and the equally dastardly sports master Herod Jenkins, who was responsible for the death of Louie's consumptive friend Marty, having sent him on a cross country run in a wild gale.

I laughed all the way through the book at each sly dig the author has at the sub-genre - but don't be misled, the puzzle is pretty good, too. I would venture to say Pryce had more fun writing his tale than Janet Evanovich had with her later books. It will be very interesting to see if Pryce can excel himself in (I hope) a second book.

Note: Amazon US has no stock on this book. As usual, my advice is try your local independent bookseller or Crime in Store in London (CrimeBks@aol.com), This review is based on the Australian hardcover edition which was published August 2001, ISBN 0747553858

Reviewed by Denise Wels, July 2001

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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