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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review: Dr Yes by Colin Bateman

Dr. Yes
by ' Bateman
Published by Headline
ISBN 9780755378616 (Paperback)

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Dr Yes is the first novel that I have read by Bateman, and I cannot believe that I had not read one of his novels before, because it is pure genius! Seriously, it is so good, so witty, and different to other crime fiction books I have read. Here is the blurb:

You don't say no to Dr. Yes, the charismatic plastic surgeon on the fast track to fame and fortune. But when the wife of obscure and paranoid crime writer Augustine Wogan disappears shortly after entering his exclusive clinic, the Small Bookseller with No Name is persuaded to investigate. As fatherhood approaches, our intrepid hero is interested only in a quick buck and the chance to exploit a neglected writer, but he soon finds himself up to his neck in murder, make-up and madness - and face to face with the most gruesome serial killer since the last one.

I could tell you what I love about this book in a single word: everything. However, that would make for a really dull and lazy review, so I will pick out a few elements that really stand out.

The humour; the book is hilarious in the most ingenious way. It is an accomplished mystery novel in its own right in which humour is skilfully included as a natural element without removing from the mystery aspect. I literally laughed out loud with this book, but as a fan of crime fiction I was completely satisfied with the crime and mystery elements. The humour is an integral part of the book, weaved into its core, and is brilliant.

Also, the characters are amazing. To say that the main protagonist, Mystery Man, is an unlikely hero is an understatement. He is the least typically heroic person you could ever imagine; he is cowardly, weak, stingy, a little bit mean, and hopeless with women. He annoys me at times, but he is still undoubtedly the hero of the book, even if he does challenge the definition of a hero. Also, Mystery Man is a real crime fiction aficionado, with a bookstore called No Alibis and lots of knowledge of the history of great crime writing. In terms of character development, the author has thought of every detail, so that even the names of the characters are clever and comical, like Pearl Knecklass!

One of the benefits of having a crime fiction aficionado as the main protagonist is the brilliant recommendations in the book, as he name drops various authors and books he has read. I mean, talking about a book ticking all the boxes! It also made me realise that, as much as I love crime fiction, in reality I am a beginner, a total lightweight, with lots more to read and discover.

When you get down to the nitty gritty, the actual story-line, that is also very good. The mystery itself is puzzling and intriguing - there is suspense, tension, danger - and the author keeps you guessing as to what is really going on. There are characters that you know are dodgy but cannot prove it or pinpoint what is wrong about them, there others that are not quite what they appear, even when you felt so certain that you had them figured. Mystery Man has his sidekick, his Robin to Batman, or Dr Watson to Sherlock, in the form of Jeff. And amongst all this there is a truly original love story, of a sort, between Mystery Man and Alison, who is soon to bear his child.

However, not only does the book make the reader laugh, but the author gives the book its own self awareness. There is a part in the book which I marked because I thought the author had been mighty clever in including an analysis of his own work within the work itself. It occurs when Mystery Man talks about The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh, a “satirical take on the LAPD” and how it particularly his book The Choirboys, and comments,

Although he continues to publish, Wambaugh has pretty much sunk without a trace, and in doing so has proved conclusively that there is no sustainable market for crime fiction with a sense of humour.

I like that the author has dropped in that reference to the sustainability of crime fiction that is also comical, but I also like to think that Mystery Man is wrong, because while I would never have thought before that I would enjoy “crime fiction with a sense of humour” so much, he and Bateman have totally changed my mind.

I enjoyed Dr. Yes; it was nice to read a crime fiction novel and laugh. This book is 100% funny and 100% quality crime fiction, and for me it has opened up the definition of what good crime fiction should be like. I absolutely wish to read Mystery Man, which is in fact the first book in this series, and The Day of the Jack Russell, another Mystery Man novel. Many thanks to Sam Eades at Headline and to Bateman himself.

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