Monday, 8 November 2010

Past Mortem

Yesterday I finished Ben Elton's Past Mortem.

This followed two previous Ben Elton books - Blind Faith and Blast from the Past. I ended my review of the latter with the following sentences:
"Having now read two Elton books, I still find myself searching for one which is ultimately satisfying. As well as this one, I've also been lent Past Mortem - perhaps that will end my search."
So has it? Ed Newson is a Detective Inspector who is investigating a series of bizarre murders. Each is unique and the links between them are minimal but Newson quickly becomes certain he is dealing with a serial killer. 

Outside of work, Newson seeks to take his mind of his obsession with his colleague by logging onto Friends Reunited (the book is 6 years old, after all!) and re-establishing contact with his old classmates. 

In some ways this book covers similar ground to Blast from the Past with its focus on the how events in our formative years can have an impact on the present. It also touches on issues of gender politics although not to the extent of the former book.

Ben Elton can (and has) been called many things. Subtle is not one of them. Whatever is taking place, whether it be a gruesome murder or adventurous sex, you are left with no room for imagination. Recurring refrains are signposted with all the subtlety of the "Welcome to Vegas" sign. Characters lack "light and shade" and some lack a third dimension.

But perhaps the most disappointing thing for me was, in amongst the false trails and plot twists, I managed to identify whodunit from relatively early one. This is not one of my usual skills and rather than feel pleased at my cleverness, I merely felt I had spotted the bleeding obvious.

These drawbacks left me disinclined to read. Only adherence to my policy of always reading a book to the end forced me not to abandon it altogether. That said, momentum did build towards the end but maybe that was merely because the end was finally in sight! 

At 460 pages, this is too long. for what it is.. perhaps other readers may be advised to read the first and last 100 pages: that should provide you with enough of the story with less of the tedium!

In summary, my search goes on. Although it wouldn't if trusted friends didn't keep recommending The First Casualty. Next for me, though, is The Hound of the Baskervilles.


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