02/12/2009

"Orpheus Rising"

by Bateman

As I have mentioned previously, I am a big fan of Christopher Brookmyre and have read everything he has produced - often several times over.  So having exhausted those books, I turned to an author that I had heard is similar, Colin Bateman (although the "Colin" seems to be MiA recently, presumably for dubious marketing reasons).

"Orpheus Rising" is one of his more recent books and apparently (he says himself) this is atypical, but it was the only one in the library.  It's kind of a thriller about a man who finds himself returning for the first time in ten years to the town where his wife was murdered.  He finds himself asking more questions about what actually happened that day and then is very surprised when he actually sees his wife - apparently alive and well.

I enjoyed the book and it certainly kept me going because I wanted to know how it ended, but I do have some reservations (spoiler alert!)

Firstly, the plot becomes overly similar to the TV series "Life On Mars".  Not at first, but towards the end.  Is our hero imagining the people he sees?  Is he going mad?  Has he somehow discovered a portal through to the other side?  I found this off-putting, ultimately, not helped by the resolution being pretty much the same.

Secondly, the main protagonist is an author of novels himself.  Apparently common advice given to aspiring authors is "write what you know" but when an experienced author like Bateman resorts to this kind of device, it jars a bit.  It seems lazy.  I know there are celebrated authors who do this all the time (Paul Auster, for example, or Kinky Friedman) but I don't much like them either.

I expected something much more blackly comic from Bateman and I believe his early novels, like "Divorcing Jack" are like this, so I'll give them a go before writing him off.

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