Writing about friends’ creative endeavours is always a tricky business. Simply put, there’s the risk that someone gives you their treasured piece of work, generated by much blood, sweat and tear, … and you don’t like it. So what does a cowardly blogger do? Ignore it? Be excessively honest?
Over the years I’ve been given plenty of records but, thankfully, the fact that I simply don’t have the time to write about everything I hear is a perfect (and entirely true) excuse. Even if sometimes it IS an excuse. (Which, of course, doesn’t automatically mean that if I haven’t written about something, I don’t like it!)
But no-one’s ever given me a book before, certainly not a published novel, at any rate. And the notion of me writing about a proper writer’s work gives me the cold sweats.
All of which makes ‘The Wrong Box’ by Andrew C. Ferguson a potentially troublesome prospect, all the more so since we sit a couple of desks apart at work.
So, with interest fully declared, in short, ‘The Wrong Box’ is a sort of comedy, sort of legal, thriller. It’s in some ways not that far removed from some of Christopher Brookmyre’s early novels although perhaps it deals in farce more often than political satire.
Unlike Brookmyre’s hero Jack Parlabane, a good guy who has to employ dubious methods to get to the truth, the main character in Ferguson’s novel, Simon English, is more cut from the cloth of the anti-hero. Much more as he’s a sex obsessed commercial property lawyer. Let’s not beat around the bush here, he’s a complete dick (although disturbingly far from the worst person in the book!)
When, after a night entertaining a client on the town, English wakes up to find a dead body in his bath (the afore-mentioned client, no less) he’s plunged into a complex mystery. As events unfold it’s not clear whether or not he will end up rich along with the bad guys or as dead as the dead guy in his bath.
I confess initially I thought that ‘The Wrong Box’ might sink under the regular references to English’s “python” and I think that if I’d been editing the book, I would have excised some of these from the final version.
However as the plot gathered pace I found myself drawn into the mystery and it’s undeniably plausible that English *would* get himself into bother just to get his end away.
The plot builds to a fitting climax (sorry) on an airstrip when English … Well, you’ll just have to read it yourself to find out.
I mentioned the comedy earlier on and the farcical scrapes that English ends up in are one of the book’s strengths, along with some impressive plotting.
Overall, it’s a little offbeat but, if you can get past the python, an entertaining thriller. Oh, and it’s got one of the best meta jokes/plugs you’re ever likely to see!
So, although it’s taken a while to get to this point, hopefully the review hasn’t been as troublesome as it might have been. And Andrew’s probably too busy at the moment to notice this …
‘The Wrong Box’ is available from Thunderpoint Publishing. More info here.
The Fife launch of the book is this Wednesday (10th May) at 5.30 p.m. in the Rothes Halls Library, Glenrothes. Entry is free.