Our book for the month of March was the Prisoner of Brenda by Colin Bateman. Set in Belfast the story begins with the murder of Sam Mahood a notorious gangster. The chief suspect is arrested nearby but seems to have suffered a breakdown so he is incarcerated in a local mental institution Purdysburn where he is known only as the Man in the White Suit. This is an enigma that caring Nurse Brenda is eager to solve so she calls upon the Mystery Man ( former patient and owner of No Alibis, Belfast’s finest crime bookshop, partner of long-suffering Alison , father of Page and son of a suicidal woman) to bring his excellent powers of investigation to bear. However before our hero can even begin, the Man in the White Suit is arrested for the murder of a fellow patient. Helped by Jeff part time shop assistant, aspiring poet and unwilling babysitter the Mystery Man enters the asylum as an undercover patient. Intrigue, conspiracy and ancient Latin curses follow as the mystery unravels.
But although the plot had suspense and drew a compelling crime maze it was the characters, their relationships and their banter that made the book such a good read. I found that I cared as much for the personal stories of each of the characters as the plot. I laughed out loud many times and chuckled throughout. I actually liked the Mystery Man despite his cynicism, selfishness and neurosis. Amongst the group the consensus of opinion was that Bateman’s humour is brilliantly unique. We would recommend the book to anyone who likes a crime story with a mix of the absurd and a bit of midnight gardening thrown in…..and if you want to know what that is you will have to read the book.
Next month we will be reading The 100 Year Old Man Who Jumped Out The Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.