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by Colin Bateman
Headline, May 2007
544 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0755334655

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Not so long ago and not all that far away, there was a chap called Colin Bateman who set his entertaining books in Northern Ireland. Now the writer formerly known as Colin is appearing in a bookshop near you simply as Bateman.

No, I have no idea why. Maybe it's so we won't remember that it was his books unleashed on us by UK television starring the supremely under-talented James Nesbitt – he of the fixed accent and even more fixed facial expression.

Anyway, I digress. But then so does Bateman – frequently– in his (ahem) riotous new book called I PREDICT A RIOT (for those of you not au fait with the UK music scene, it's the name of a track by the band Kaiser Chiefs).

The book's what you might call a caper. There's a crime novel in it somewhere, but it's very well buried beneath a pile of threads including the on-off affair between a civil servant and a shop security guard who has an unfortunate allergy to carrot cake, a sexually frustrated estate agent, a bird-watching terrorist languishing in a Colombian jail and old-time cop James 'Marsh' Mallow who is determined to nail gangster Pink Harrison. And just what is going on in the mysterious Office 12 in the Department of Education?

When I read Bateman's books, I always have a sneaking suspicion that there's a heavy dose of truth and reality between the switchback action. And I'm not totally convinced that the book will travel well outside of the UK boundaries, mind. American readers will enjoy the romp, but I suspect a heck of a lot of the cultural and political references about Belfast will go soaring over non-British heads.

There are some hysterical scenes and lines in there – my favourite was the bloke going into a hotel in the Republic of Ireland and instead of asking for an Ulster Fry breakfast (you know, the heart attack in a plate you get in British hotels), demanding "an unoccupied twenty-six counties fry." And then there's the train hijack where Walter, the civil servant with a tangled love life, says: "But it's not like hijacking a plane or anything. They can't say, 'Take me to Cuba." They could only say, 'Take me to Lisburn or Antrim" or something. They're kind of confined to where the track runs to."

Bateman is a master at juggling the multiple plot lines and intertwining them seamlessly. In the hands of a lesser writer, a reader would feel like they were on a switchback. But I PREDICT A RIOT careers along at a break-neck pace, keeping us rooting for the dysfunctional cast of characters, and enjoying the cameo roles that hurtle by. The book's too long by at least 150 pages, but (sorry, sorry), it's a riot!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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