Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Review: Divorcing Jack

Colin Bateman's books came highly recommended from a friend and former colleague. He told me about a night that he was reading such a book in bed, and ended up laughing so much and so hard that he woke his sleeping wife! Coming very late to the Bateman party, I nevertheless decided to keep an eye out for them, and where better to start than his very first novel, Divorcing Jack. Even better, it was bought in a charity shop in Bangor for the princely sum of 50 pence, with two others. Due to the need to switch off the Kindle during take off and landing on the aeroplane, I decided to begin my holiday with a dead tree book, this very one. And I laughed so much!

Divorcing Jack follows the lead character of Dan Starkey, a newspaper columnist in Belfast during the mid 1990s. After sharing one kiss with a woman not his wife, he is propelled into a high speed murder mystery chase around Belfast, Bangor, and the fictional town of Crossmaheart with an American reporter in tow, encountering many memorable characters, such as the Jack Russell, Mouse, the Alliance Prime Minister-in-waiting, a stripping nun, and terrorists of all sorts and shades. At times the action is gruesome; the language colourful; the characters fierce; but it all comes together with many groan-inducing puns which delighted me!

Here's a taster of Bateman's knowing asides and puntastic puns:

'I was brought up with Protestant tastes. Plain and simple.'

'His accent wasn't Belfast, but it wasn't country enough to be annoying.'

'Not so much a question of Finishing School as never having finished school.'

'God didn't reply, but then He was probably moving in mysterious ways.'

On meeting the nun: 'She gave me a look that was more Armalite than Carmelite.'

Reader beware that all human life is here, with the attendant language and actions, but in the end (with lots of unexpected twists to the last page) it's a satisfying read, full of Bateman's characteristic black humour which may be appreciated by a wider audience, but will go down well with the folks at home in Ulster.

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