Mystery Books for Sale

[ Home ]
[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]


by Colin Bateman
Headline, November 2002
352 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0755302435

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Former journalist Colin Bateman has proved to be a prolific writer. He was born and lives in Northern Ireland and formerly wrote a column for the Co, Down Spectator. Incredible though it may seem he can probably claim the crown for being the only journalist ever to be sued by the Boys' Brigade - and that for an innocent, joking remark he made to introduce a travel piece in his column. His bibliography includes Best In The Business, Wild About Harry, Mohammed Maguire, Shooting Sean ,Turbulent Priests , Maid of the Mist, Empire State, Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men, Cycle of Violence, Divorcing Jack (in reverse order of writing.) Divorcing Jack won the Betty Trask award. He has also won the Northern Ireland Press Award and a Journalist's Fellowship to Oxford University. Add to this the fact that he has written successful screenplays for his own books and you will begin to comprehend the talent of the man. Amazingly, for years he was convinced he would never be able to write a novel so confined himself to short stories. Besides his writing, he also managed punk bands and his interest in music is reflected in his prose.

I was unable to determine if Murphy's Law, the book, was written before the TV series of the same name. Bateman has been quoted as saying that he feels he was able to put a good deal more of Murphy's background into the book than he was able to do with the TV series. In the TV series, Murphy bears a different given name - Tommy - while he answers to Martin in the novel. Another difference I couldn't understand is that in the book, the undercover cop has lost a son while the television version sees him bereaved of a daughter.

The tale is set in London. Murphy has come to live here in an attempt to escape his past. It was his work in Ireland that saw the death of his son. Sadly reflecting the lot of so many couples who have had a child die, Murphy and his wife have divorced. Murphy is unable to accept that he is permanently parted from his wife and causes her severe embarrassment because of his turning up at unexpected times at her house - usually drunk.

The narrative begins with Murphy being summoned to New Scotland Yard. While he wants to go back to his work as an undercover police officer he does not wish to cooperate with the psychiatrist who is attempting - clumsily - to rehabilitate him. He shows her that he has more idea of her difficulties than she has of his. He is reinstated.

Martin is set to try to trap a dodgy funeral director - well, plastic coffins are hardly best recommended business practice - and his undertaking accomplices who use the funeral home as cover for their more nefarious activities - carrying out diamond heists then using the proceeds to purchase heroin. Hatcher has contrived a plan whereby he convinces heads of security for diamond companies that he has kidnapped their loved ones and is about to kill them unless the protectors rob their own firms of the diamonds. It proves a very successful scam indeed.

Murphy manages to have himself hired in one of the nightclubs owned by entrepreneurial Hatcher - Murphy is a talented singer/composer - and from there worms himself into the dark side of the gang despite managing to alienate the members other than the boss. He is astonished to run into his former best friend, now a priest, who has also migrated to London. Their friendship plays a pivotal part in the action.

Bateman has created some nasty villains. Black humour abounds in a plot about funeral directors that fair begs for comic asides. Hatcher is totally immoral and sadistic finding entertainment in the troubles of others whilst displaying the most touching filial affection for his own deplorable parent who is on the verge of death.

The narrative is in the present tense, fast and grisly, albeit able to generate laughs from the reader. Bateman's series about journalist Dan Starkey has proven popular and it is highly likely that a series of which Murphy's Law is the first novel will prove equally popular. It is incredible that someone writing such black prose should have signed up to write children's books, but Bateman has done just this. Still the topic is violence - teenage gangs. One supposes that the title of the first of these -Reservoir Pups - might just give a hint as to the nature of the content.

Reviewed by Denise Wels, August 2003

[ Top ]



Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

[ About | Reviews | Search | Submit ]
[ Home ]