Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review of From Aberystwyth With Love by Malcolm Pryce (Bloomsbury, 2009)

It’s a sweltering summer in Aberystwyth and a flooded village emerges from a parched lake. More used to the cold of Siberia, Uncle Vanya, a museum curator, has arrived in the town from the fabled Hughesovka, a town established by a Welsh migrant to Russia. He’s come in search of the story of Gethsemane Walters, a young girl that was murdered thirty years previously. Vanya’s daughter had acquired imaginary friend not long after, but as she got older she claimed to be Gethsemane. Then Vanya was sent to prison and he never saw his daughter again. His mission for private detective Louie Knight and his trusted sidekick, Calamity Jane, is to discover what happened to Gethsemane so that she can be given a Christian burial. Their investigation takes them into the strange world of stamp collecting, spinning wheel repairman, the Russian space programme and rumours of troll brides.

From Aberystwyth With Love is a fine addition to Malcolm Pryce’s slightly surreal detective series. Pryce takes the hardboiled private investigator genre and gives it a Monty Python spin, taking elements of Welsh culture and the local geography of Aberystwyth, and foregrounding and twisting them, and blending the whole lot with a noir sensibility and myth and fable. The result is a set of highly enjoyable yarns. Given this is book five, the characters are well rounded and developed, their back stories established. The story is intricately plotted and, despite its surreal oddness, it has an internal logic that makes perfect sense. There’s some nice intertextuality and it jaunts along at a steady clip. It might have been interesting to have spent more time on the overseas jaunt, but that doesn’t take away from the story as is. An entertaining read and I’m looking forward to book six, The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still, released in August.

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