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by Colin Bateman
Headline, March 2008
384 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 075533468X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Forgive my cynicism, but I always start to wonder when British writers suddenly set their books in the States especially when it's such a specifically regional writer as the bloke formerly known as Colin Bateman. Nothing to do with upping sales, perchance?

Bateman's back catalogue is very firmly rooted in Northern Ireland, particularly his previous and absolutely outstanding I PREDICT A RIOT. But ORPHEUS RISING (subtitled 'love, rockets and a bloody great fish') is set in America, albeit with an Irish hero.

Not that you'd know, particularly. OK, so his name is Michael Ryan, but you don't get much sense of that Irish background, as he's bundled off very conveniently to the States.

Ryan's a would-be writer who finds himself besotted with Claire. The first time he sees her, she's pulling a porn shop owner and crime writer out of the sea after a gory shark attack. Ryan woos her, marries her and loses her when she's killed during a bank raid.

Ten years later he returns to small-town Florida for the memorial service, accompanied by double Pulitzer Prize winner (and all-round piss-head) Ambrose Jeffers who smells a possible book deal. Michael knows going back is a huge mistake proved beyond doubt when he gets drunk at the big dinner. And then he spots Claire.

I'm a great fan of Bateman, but ORPHEUS RISING is hard going. It's certainly not badly written, and would probably make a good TV drama, but he commits the cardinal sin of not making me care about his main character, and also delaying the 'shock, horror' moment we're two-thirds of the way into the book before the key event (not a spoiler, incidentally) happens.

Structurally Bateman does some interesting things with the storytelling. But in the end, even though Bateman is, as always, endlessly inventive and steaming in from leftfield (leave your disbelief at the door, incidentally), I wasn't sorry to see the book end.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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