Colin Bateman is a legend. He has a huge amount of books in his back catalogue and the Mystery Man books are my absolute favourite. The first time I read this, I remember being on the tube and finding myself in fits of laughter and getting some very funny looks from the other passengers. I think The Bookseller With No Name is possibly one of the best fictional characters I have read (big statement – I know!).
If you’ve ever seen Black Books, imagine Bernard Black trying to solve a mystery…That!
Blurb: A superbly gripping and blackly funny mystery by the king of the comic crime caper.
He’s the Man With No Name and the owner of No Alibis, a mystery bookshop in Belfast. But when a detective agency next door goes bust, the agency’s clients start calling into his shop asking him to solve their cases. It’s not as if there’s any danger involved. It’s an easy way to sell books to his gullible customers and Alison, the beautiful girl in the jewellery shop across the road, will surely be impressed. Except she’s not – because she can see the bigger picture. And when they break into the shuttered shop next door on a dare, they have their answer. Suddenly they’re catapulted along a murder trail which leads them from small-time publishing to Nazi concentration camps and serial killers…
Many of Bateman’s characters are hilariously inept yet tenacious but Mystery Man is so perfect with his Irish wit and eccentricities. He’s a complete eejit, but you have to love him. He gets himself into the most ridiculous situations, and does some awful things, but y’know, his heart’s in the right place.
There are so many great lines in this book it’s hard to choose, but I have managed it, just for you:
“Bookselling is like prostitution, you sell your wares, you close your eyes, and you never fall in love with the clients. You also keep your fingers crossed that they won’t ask for anything perverted.”
“I gave her my hard look, which is like my normal look but harder. At this point, if she’d had any sense, she should have asked for ID, and I could have shown her my Xtravision card and my kidney donor card and dribbled off into the distance ranting about this or that, but as it happened my hard look proved more than adequate”
He was the type of man women said they hated, they absolutely hated, they absolutely and categorically hated, and then they went to bed with him. I was the type of man women said they hated, and then they went home.”
“Serial Killer Week got off to an inauspicious start when the opening wine and bean evening was invaded by a former prisoner who misinterpreted the poster, but he was at least able to give us the professional’s view of the genre.”
Also, I have a morbid fear of rates, and mice, and nettles and wasps and jagged cans and rotting food and damp newspapers and the unemployed.”
About Colin Bateman
Colin Bateman was a journalist in Northern Ireland before becoming a full-time writer. His first novel, DIVORCING JACK, won the Betty Trask Prize, and all his novels have been critically acclaimed. His book Murphy’s Law was adapted for the BBC television series Murphy’s Law (2001–2007), featuring James Nesbitt.
This post has also reminded me that this should be arriving sometime soon- completely funded by Kickstarter.
Colin Bateman’s first collection of short fiction and drama. Dublin Express is a collection of five rare short stories from one of Ireland’s most acclaimed novelists, together with the complete script of his hugely successful first play, National Anthem.