Bob Roosevelt is an ageing Private Detective, reformed hippy. He also has a sharp-tongued Guardian Angel named Pea Brain who during life was a 14th century monk. When he stops at a greasy spoon diner while on a road trip, he bumps into a friend that he hasn’t seen on almost four decades. The Guardian Angel warms him against getting involved though he cannot explain why and sure enough, as he is returning to the family home of his old friend, the friend is killed.
Cue the opening up of a silly plot where inept and brutal police officers are out to get him, pay little attention to what is really going on and only seek (by accident rather than design) to derail Bob.
I was genuinely surprised to see that it had received so many 3 star reviews on Good Reads. It had me hooked from the first page and the second we were introduced to the not-so-angelic Guardian Angel, I knew I was on to a good thing. I can only suspect it is because of the quick, dry rapier wit. This sort of humour appeals to Brits but I am not sure it appeals so much to an American audience – hence why TV show Pushing Daisies was far more popular on this side of the Atlantic than “over there” and why when you mention the names Robert Rankin and Jasper Fforde most Americans will respond in a blank tone “sorry, who?”
And that is precisely the two writers that this work reminds me of and that is one of the highest accolades I could possibly give to this book. It is funny, sharp, intelligent and fast paced. Another comparison I would make is the dark humour of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series – that fusing of detective drama with humour.
Whether you like that style of writing or not, it is an intriguing crime thriller as it stands – it isn’t there merely as a vessel for the silliness. As the plot unravels we find ourselves drawn in to a thicker plot than you might at face value have expected.
Down sides? Firstly some of the language. There are a few typos and some of the grammar grates on you – it could have done with an editor with an advanced level of English to change all instances of “like” to “as if”. These are minor complaints and don’t really distract the reader. It’s all simple stuff too – lap top when it should be laptop. It’s all just basic language stuff.
My other complaint is that it drags a bit in the middle section but nothing that some good, ruthless editing can’t cure. Aside from those two minor points, this is a fine début novel and if you like dark humour, a sarcastic tone and silliness in a serious novel then you can do far worse than this.