Murder, Extortion and Carrot Cake
by Colin Batemam
664 pages, Headline
Review by Marc Nash
664 pages, 133 chapters averages out at about 5 pages a chapter, veering rapidly between the stories & fates of a motley group of characters interacting against a backdrop of post Peace Agreement Belfast. Short chapters, whacky characters, crazy interactions, this is a light enough and vaguely pleasurable read. But for a beach read I find 664 pages at this fluffiness somewhat unsatisfying. To me light and fluffy shouldn't be a 6-day read.
I Predict a Riot starts off with a disastrous blind date and we follow the long and winding path of these two wise-quipping losers fumbling their way back towards each other's arms. For losers, their professional lives are turned around with lashings of deus ex machina. Into the mix is a down at heel ex-terrorist, plying his wares far from home now that terrorism is no longer an employment provider "there's a lot of unemployed terrorists out there. They can't all become politicians". We have an aging detective with a grudge. A warlord turned respectable politician. We have the best mates of the two lovebirds and so on and so forth, each given 5 pages to make a superficial mark before we move on to the next contestant and are left wondering (hanging) as to when they'll next appear. Half the fun to be gleaned from this book was guessing which character was going to have the next chapter.
The tone is witty, but again spread over such a length the humour is somewhat diluted. I didn't really care about the characters, partly because there were so many it was impossible to root for them all; partly because they weren't particularly likable and finally because they were all of similar witty, cynically acerbic stripe. The ex-terrorist was potentially the most interesting, but I found his plot turns predictable and his character schizophrenic and uneven, which without revealing a spoiler, was kind of the point. But I just didn't buy it.
So having really enjoyed my first exposure to Bateman in "Mystery Man", I found this earlier work too long and curiously insubstantial.