02/01/2011

"Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks"

by Christopher Brookmyre

Another entertaining satire from my favourite author - ever!  This time the targets are quacks, pseudo-scientists and "alternative" medicalists.  It's a bit like a fictional version of Ben Goldacre's Bad Science column (and highly recommended book), although the bibliography lists older books in the same vein, particularly James "The Amazing" Randi's exposés of quackery and fraudsters (here's an excellent talk at TED 2007) and Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things.

The book stars Jack Parlabane again, is set in Scotland again and features a psychic involved in setting up a chair at a Scottish university to study the paranormal and supernatural. In the course of the story, Brookmyre reveals many of the techniques used by such charlatans. But that doesn't take away from the plot of the story as a thriller, complete - of course - with a number of deaths. Although, to be fair, fewer than usual in a Brookmyre novel. All as tightly plotted and tautly narrated as ever.

The unsinkable ducks, by the way, is Randi's term for the irrational beliefs and their pedlars that survive in our supposedly scientific society.

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