Friday, November 11, 2011

Review of The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still by Malcolm Pryce (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Private Investigator Louie Knight has been commissioned by the mysterious Raspiwtin to track down a dead man, Iestyn Probert. Probert was supposedly hanged twenty five years ago after a raid on the Coliseum cinema. He was caught by Aberystwyth's current mayor, then a cop, after knocking down an egg-headed man in a silver suit and taking him to a doctor. The rumour is that Probert was resuscitated by aliens and escaped, and the seizure of the man in the silver suit was the Welsh equivalent of a Roswell incident. Interest in the case has been sparked by the sighting of strange lights in the sky and a sighting of Probert. Neither the mayor or a shadowy government department, the Aviary, are happy with Louie's interest. To add an extra complication, Louie has become romantically interested in Miaow, a good-time girl in a nightclub, and a soothsayer has predicted that he will become the next mayor, a job he has no interest in as the election contest involves being blown out of a cannon and taking part in a boxing match. Whatever is going on, it seemingly all links back to what happened twenty five years ago.

The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still is the sixth book in the Louie Knight series. Pryce has really hit his stride with the series now. The principal characters - Knight, Calamity, Sospan, Eyeore - are all well established and the slightly surrealist rendering of Aberystwyth and its surrounds is fully realised. I thought the first half of this book was excellent and I was sure it was going to be a five star review. The story grabs one's attention, there is a hefty dose of humour which made me laugh out loud, and the prose is vivid and engaging. Throughout the book, Pryce weaves in a fair bit of philosophical rhetoric which elevated the story beyond a parody of both PI novels and Welsh culture. The second half of the story wanders off course a little. The plot, I felt, becomes over-complicated with its various threads and subplots, and I found myself often turning back a few pages to re-read passages to try and get a clearer sense of what was going on. I'm still not sure I really understood all of it. This was a shame as the book is inventive, clever and genuinely funny in places.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Thanks for this review. I'm really glad you enjoyed the novel, even if it did get a bit overdone in some places.