This is the first book in the Aberystwyth series, by Malcolm Pryce, and I really enjoyed it. The book is a pastiche of the pulp fiction books from the 50s, and while it should be silly and completely unbelievable, it is far better than that. Yes, the story is too incredible to be really taken seriously, but when I was reading it, I really found myself getting sucked in to it.
Louie Knight is a private detective in Aberystwyth, in the 1980s. The mysterious and beautiful singer Myfanwy Montez asks him to investigate the disappearance of her cousin Evans, and despite his initial reluctance, Louie finds himself getting drawn into the mystery. Evans is just one of a number of schoolboys who has disappeared recently, and Louie has to find the connection between all the missing boys, as well as finding out who might want to hurt them.
Louie is a likeable hero, and is the only character who really stood out for me – the others will probably fade fast once the book is finished. But that doesn’t really matter – this is his show and he should be the star. His character is clearly an homage to the likes of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and mixed in with the quirky settings and situations, this combination works well. The Aberystwyth depicted in this book is a deliberately skewed version of the real place – it’s run by the crime lords (druids) and there are all sorts of unusual comings and goings.
The book is populated by unusual characters, and the incidents pile on top of one another at a furious pace. In fact, that is my only slight complaint. Because things happen at such a rapid rate of knots, I found myself getting a bit confused as to what was happening, and how it connected with what had already happened. But don’t let that put you off. Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable, amusing read.
(Author’s website can be found here.)