Favourites Friday #9: Mystery Man (and Laughing So Much You Get Funny Looks In Public)

Click Images for Goodreads.
Click Images for Goodreads.

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.
1012167_10151577634069006_313251959_n

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.

Also in the Mystery Man Series:
71979819406955 16055875

An Explosion, a Dwarf and a Missing Person: The Black Dragon (The Mysterium #1) by Julian Sedgwick

Click to view on Amazon
Click to view on Amazon

East meets West; past meets present; criminal minds meet skilled artists – welcome to the Mysterium, a circus with dark and thrilling secrets at its heart.

Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny’s school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background.

But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her – which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

I felt the same way about The Black Dragon on the whole as I felt about its protagonist, Danny. I liked him enough, and thought he was funny enough, but he just didn’t give me enough to keep me interested. I felt like his past was more interesting than his present which probably isn’t a good thing.

Danny grew up in a travelling Circus, The Mysterium, where his Dad was an escapologist and his mum a high wire acrobat. Prior to the events in The Black Dragon Danny’s dad dies in an under-water trick that he’d performed hundred times over, and shortly after their trailer is set on fire and his mum is killed too.

Under the care of his aunt Laura, Danny is just settling into a more traditional life and trying to get through the boredom of high school when an explosion goes off and Laura whisks him away to Hong Kong.

It’s not long before Laura is kidnapped leaving Danny and Zamora, an Italian Dwarf – a friend from The Mysterium days – to find Laura and find out how all of these things are connected.

As fun as this was, the whole way through I just wanted it to be about The Mysterium and didn’t really care about finding Laura. By the looks of it, the next book in the series might do just that, so I’ll definitely check it out when the time comes.

I enjoyed the characters here, especially Zamora, and the fast pace of the adventure was welcome but it didn’t have enough strings to its bow to really hook me. I do feel like this could improve in later books though.

Disclosure: I received a copy from Hodder Children’s Books via World Book Day
Details: Paperback, 340 pages, Published 2013 by Hodder Children’s Books
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Unicorns
Is it a keeper? Although I will check out the next book I’ve already added this to My Swapping List.
If you liked this try: Charlie’s Monsters by Dean Lorey. Similar in style…swap magic for monsters and viola!