THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL
Written by Colin Bateman
Review written by Fiona Messenger
Released: 11th November 2010
The follow up to Mystery Man, and our hero is still trying to run an ailing bookstore called No Alibis, care for his sick mother, keep his own ailments in check, and avoid his girlfriend who he is convinced is trying to blackmail him. Then he gets called onto a case which seems to have similarities to a previous case he's solved: someone is deliberately defacing a poster of a travel magnate's advertising hording. Where MI5 and a stuffed Jack Russell come into it is anyone's guess, but as it is obvious his life is in danger, and not from his mother or girlfriend this time, he has to solve this fast.
As I started reading, the thought crossed my mind that I should swear off sequels for life. I expect too much of them, I thought, I expect them to be better than the first. Let me give you a scenario as an example of the way I felt after reading the first couple of chapters. Take the heady first date and the first kiss at the end of it (if you're lucky). The moon is shining, the stars are twinkling, the band is playing 'Moonglow' and your partner looks and feels like a Greek god (or goddess) and the kiss is like a mountain stream on a hot summer's day. Fast forward to the second date, and the moon and stars are covered in red smog, the band is playing 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', your partner is half asleep, has drunk far too much, and has spinach on his teeth.
I'm not one to give up on a book though, oh no. I persevered, despite the fact that the owner of No Alibis has regressed from semi-intelligent dry humour to childish humour which is irritating on the first repetition and you feel like ripping the book up into cat litter after the fortieth (or so).
Actually, the smog cleared, the band changed the number, the partner drank lots of coffee (Starbucks of course) and brushed his teeth. It got better. But still the ghost of how good the first book was remains. The Man With No Name is still anally retentive, schizophrenic and a hypochondriac, and still manages to find time to solve the case of the Cock Headed Man. That isn't cock as in male chicken by the way. Alison and Jeff generally get in his way but ultimately help in the quest involving, of all things, a stuffed Jack Russell. The story is good, and funny, but I particularly liked the little 'asides' that the reluctant detective makes. It seems that crime critics, of which the Man With No Name is one, have moved on from slating production line crime fiction and selected translated Scandinavian crime fiction as the next victim. I'm not going tojoin in the debate, mainly because I don't know enough, but surely we shouldn't aggravate these people too much, considering that they kicked our butts many centuries ago in longships and horned headwear? Just a thought. I did find myself nodding in agreement when he started on how you should respect books in general and don't charge in with pre-conceived ideas and an unintelligent mien. Oh shucks, I'm as anal as he is.
Bateman has got a TV deal as a result of Mystery Man, and richly deserved it is too, albeit he isn't a virgin to the small screen. I watch very little crime drama, as the books are always better, but I look forward to this one appearing.
In all - a good sequel, but not a remarkable one.