Arthur Less is one of those endearingly frustrating men, he cruises along, not being anything in particular and stuff happens to him. Usually really good stuff. He is ageing and starting to feel his mortality, he has gone from being the slightly shy and aloof person that people notice to being largely ignored. His latest novel has been rejected and he is hurt and lonely. He makes the impulsive decision to head off to a bunch of events in different countries in order to avoid attending his ex partner’s wedding. So we follow Arthur to these locations as he missteps and bumbles his way about. It sounds vacuous, but the writing is so sparkling and it is so wryly funny that I was drawn in immediately and loved this book.
The story is not the thing in this book, it is the atmosphere the author creates, the way that Arthur looks back on what has happened to him, the role he played in the lives of others, his perspective on his life, what the relationships he had have meant to him and where he is now. He is getting old, his life seems to have no substance and he is floundering. He is a kind of bumbling fool, someone who never makes a decision, someone who drifts and this is the charm of the book. Gentle and sweet and sad and lovely, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I loved the feeling of it, a flight of fancy and something lovely to spend time with.
I had so wanted this to be great but is was only ok. I like Karen Pirie and have read a few of these books in the past and thought them pretty good. I’m a died in the wool Val McDermid fan and always want them to be amazing and she usually delivers. This one wasn’t my fave though, I loved the start, and thought the whole idea of burying motorcycles so that they could later be retrieved after the war and sold, was cool. Then they find a body buried with the bikes and Karen and her team enter to investigate this historic murder. Unfortunately Karen is grieving her partner, her boss hates her and is setting her up to fail. That isn’t good but then Karen goes on dates with one of the suspects and generally behaves in a way that I found unrealistic and the story just plods along. We get bogged down in the drama between Karen and her boss, the spy who is infiltrating Karen’s team and the detail of the investigation, so much detail, so slow to move along.
I got frustrated with Karen, need the story to get moving and just struggled through it. I was helped by a plane journey which meant I got stuck into it in the end but it seldom takes me so long to finish a book. I do however look forward to a new Val and hope for one that is a bit more exciting.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me access to this book.
So disappointed. I really enjoyed Otherworld and it does brisk business with my students at school, especially the gamers who like the concept. This one however just didn’t reach the same heights. I was confused, bogged down, irritated all the time I was plodding through this. It felt like one of those books which goes “well this happened, then this happened and now this other thing is going to happen” it was also the victim of one of my pet hates in a story, “he said/she said” constantly to the point of real irritation.
Thanks Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity. Sadly this one wasn’t great for me.