Murder bag by Tony Parsons (Century)

murder bag

Lee Child – see below – also writes the endorsement on Tony Parson’s departure into the crimo genre. “Tense and human”, he says. Welcome to the field of nastiness and violence, Tony.

Parsons can write. I have followed his work on and off since he was a teenage recruit to the New Musical Express. Where does he fit in?

By human, Child has him down right, although it is fantastical perhaps that the metropolitan police murder division would actually want to employ a young single father of a five year old with dodgy child care and a manic penchant for dogs. Excuse me crimos I have to go, in this case,  to make a dress for my daughter’s school play.

Even less logical when another Pc  collapses on his first sight of a dead body and gets drummed down the ranks to the canteen,  our hero is flipped upstairs. Do they do psychometric tests on candidates for the Met, probably not, not even for novels?

The prologue starts with a pretty obscene mandatory crime – everyone in this genre seems to want to outdo each other in outrageous viciousness (although we must have scraped that barrel clean by now) and ultimately becomes irrelevant. Whatever happened to jolly, happy go lucky nice guy villains who just wanted to make a few bob on the side and retire to the Costa Brava?

But then Parsons is quickly into his stride, accomplished in character builder, flipping the narrative along briskly, drawing out his characters and setting (central London). Max Wolfe has an unnatural if fashionable need for espressos on the beat. Is he espresso light? Yes, but he is also a slick operator apparently to be promoted so quickly although I am fearing as each chapter starts for his child care arrangements. What if he has to stay late? Then what, chief super? And will he mingle with the mafia over his machiattos? Unfortunately not.

This could be made for TV except we do not really believe that  brodcasters will let anyone cross into overly sadistic impossible violence of the kind we might be dealing with here – there is a line between the media, a book can still go where the camera won’t, the fear is in the mind not on the screen (discuss for you phd or magic party rehearsal)

It is also tv in that however accomplished Parsons is as a tehnician, I am not sure he has not been spending more time on the sofa watching the box than knowing the real ins and outs of so called London underworld or public school mores. Had he written about roadies killing groupies, or BBC presenters raping young boys, I could have a bit more faith maybe….

Does plot matter in these things? Do we care? Or is just a myth building action of page turning ostensibly because we are supposed to want to know Agatha Christie style who dunnit, or Sherlock Holmes how done it, or Scandi style what effect it may have on our hero/ine, never mind the victim. Which peg are we hanging our emotions on? Here I am with Mrs Molloy – the babysitter. That dog is going to do something twee. Or get shot.

Parsons was famously a single male parent and ought to know better. I am on page 65 and I think I have it all, but it is a nice read, not too complicated a plot, interrupted with starbursts (or black holes for me) of violence. I am not sure if all that is predictable because it is London and because it is TV inspired and I am London and TV referenced…

There is a sense of confidence, but also a lack of self awareness or what we used to call cool. The anomalies are not humorous. It is a clever idea to have the moll, the doll, the girlfriend played out by a five year old but it is better if you enjoy the joke while you are going about it.

And there is almost a beautiful twist that might have broken the genre when a victim’s wife might have fancied him which could have led us into a completely different moral perspective.

Parsons is sensitive to other people and dimensions. This is not the crimo-male masturbatary I and I and I and bang and I bang. It is written in the first person but this person is interested in other people and draws everyone around him into the narrative so the ridiculousness of the plotting – he disobeys orders and is made a hero, he gets beaten up and his boss threatens to kick him out of a job – becomes secondary and inconsequential, as it often is in tv soap.

There is this explanation on violence that says women being more fearful (in general than men) want to read about what might really be frightening

I am not frightened here (or in other crimo books) just occasionally disgusted by the debauchery.

I am thinking how Tony might have sat down in the pub with his mates and configured the crimo procedures and then they let him go home to link everything up, only some of the characters do not proceed in an orderly direction and others are well just downright dishonest. There are a lot of non sequiturs here – read that as plain old nonsense, the kind which any old editor might spot. There are more perhaps than a dozen points where the plots do not add up. That is another Cluedo.

I would also take issue with the token London here, not real. Real people do not walk their dogs in Regents Park in my experience (deep). No one would go to Hampstead Heath on the off chance of bumping into a dog walking detective on a weekend.

I am inclined to aim the criticism more at Century as publishers for setting up this whole three book deal and then being too editorially lazy to worry about whatever tut they were given. It is a suicide note.



About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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