Friday, January 28, 2011

DR YES by Bateman

DR. YES By Bateman

Headline, £14.99, 9780755378609

MYSTERY MAN was one of those books that grabbed me from the opening page. Bateman’s Bookseller With No Name is a neurotic, paranoid, hypochondriac mess of a man who barely understands people and treats his customers with a barely restrained loathing for their obvious idiocy. He is every retailer on a bad day taken to extremes. And yet somehow, he is immensely empathetic in a very unsettling way. His rambling narration is frequently laugh out loud funny and peppered with the kind of geeky references that will add another dimension to fans of the genre (one could create a kind of drinking game out of it, but it might be a rather solo exercise unless there is an audio version available). But that first book seemed like a one off exercise, a beautifully executed and somewhat ludicrious joke that couldn’t possibly form the basis for a series.


Okay. Wrong.

DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL followed swiftly and now we have the quite magnificent DR. YES, which continues in much the same vein as the first two novels with our bookselling hero trying to live out the life of his fictional heroes while steadfastly refusing to actually place himself in any real danger unless someone first shove him in the way of it. His relationship – “she’s not my girlfriend!” – with the now pregnant jewellery seller Alison is absolutely wonderful, although there is a suspicion that she is every bit as unhinged as he given that she seems to let him hang around her.

And the word unhinged could apply to almost every cast member with the possible exception of the long suffering DI Robinson who plays the straight man throughout the novels with a kind of weariness one suspects would come quickly dealing with the Mystery Man and his cohorts.

This time around, our nameless hero starts the ball rolling by chasing down an elusive and little-published writer who he sees passing the shop. Sensing the opportunity for some cash from first editions, our hero is as ever driven by his own inflated and childish id and winds up involved in a mystery that takes in a missing (presumed dead) wife, a charismatic plastic surgeon with great teeth and a too-sexy-to-be-true femme fatalle by the name of Pearl Knecklasse (cue a great discussion between Mystery Man and Alison over how that can’t possibly be a real name).

As ever with Bateman, the gags are spot on, the laconic narration is perfectly paced and the action is often inspired by its own twisted kind of logic. The Bookseller With No Name series continues to be effortless and sometimes inspired entertainment, even for those who won’t get all the in-jokes about various crime authors and genre clichés. Bateman continues to be one of those talented few who can write comic mysteries with apparent ease, and if you like your crime stories with a (darkly) comic edge, you need to go pick Dr Yes up right now. Preferably from the most neurotic, paranoid and hypochondriac bookseller you can find…