Author: Malcolm Pryce
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
Publication date: 1st August 2011.
Overview from Bloomsbury Publishing:
It is May in Aberystwyth, and the mayoral election campaign – culminating in the traditional boxing match between candidates – is underway. Sospan the ice-cream seller waits in his hut for souls brave enough to try his latest mind-expanding new flavour, and Louie Knight, Aberystwyth's only Private Detective, receives a visit from a mysterious stranger called Raspiwtin asking him to track down a dead man. Twenty-five years ago Iestyn Probert was hanged for his part in the notorious raid on the Coliseum cinema, but shortly afterwards he was seen, apparently alive and well, boarding a bus to Aberaeron. Did he miraculously evade the hangman's noose? Or could there really be substance to the rumours that he was resuscitated by aliens? Now, as strange lights are spotted in the sky above Aberystwyth and a farmer claims to have had a close encounter with a lustful extraterrestrial, Iestyn Probert has been sighted once again. But what does Raspiwtin want with him? And why does Louie's investigation arouse unwelcome interest from a shadowy government body and a dark-suited man in a black 1947 Buick?
A strange gallery of misfits have helped shape the adventures of fictional gumshoe Louie Knight. Malcolm Pryce and his series of seaside detective novels have managed to envision a fictional and independent Wales in an alternative eighties environment where Aberystwyth resembles a classic film noir setting of mystery and crime rather than the quaint Victorian seaside promenade of its real life counterpart.
It is a time and place inhabited by gangster like druids dressed in sharply tailored suits, ice cream vendors philosophising over the meaning of life, hardened local police chiefs seemingly at odds with that same world, games teachers holding dark secrets in their hearts and a town where a schoolgirl with an interest in American dime thrillers decides to become the sidekick to Aberystwyth’s sole private detective.
Over the course of six novels the author has seemed to have shaped the fictional seaside resort into a place where some wickedly indigenous black humour is combined with the crime writing of Raymond Chandler and the surreal comedy of both The Goons and Monty Python.
Added to this is Pryce’s ability to switch from suspense and humour to moments of heartbreaking tenderness mainly at the expense of the town’s more down trodden and lost souls whilst the arrival of each new mystery increasingly feels like the welcome return of an old friend.
As a result, it’s easy to become attached to characters such as the sidekick Calamity, ice cream vendor Sospan, chief inspector Llinos, femme fatale Mwfanwy and even the cleverly named and calculated evil that is Herod Jenkins, the games teacher from hell.
The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still revolves around a bizarre close encounter of the third kind and manages to intertwine a tapestry of twists and turns that include a government cover-up, an alien reserection, the mystery of a disappearing body and even an appearance by a life sized ginger bread extra terrestrial.
Previously instalments have found Louie Knight investigating such bizarre plot devices as a conspiracy to flood the town, the tormented spirit of a missing schoolgirl eaten by a pig, a quest to find a missing test monkey from the golden years of the space programme, a murdered Santa Claus actor and even violence generating from the secret ingredients found in every stick of Aberystwyth rock.
But underlining the sharp wit and quirky set pieces are the more emotionally satisfying character studies of the human heart and an underlining theme that inherently people hurt and cause grief to each other, especially those crimes seen through the passage of time and it’s the often unexpected emotional punch amidst the humour that manages to give Pryce’s work the necessary added depth.
A point not lost on Louie Knight himself.
The Day Aberystwyth Stood Still is another enjoyable and sometimes surreal ride from the imagination of Mr. Pryce and whilst the cult status of the series is safely assured there is no doubt that the bizarre investigations undertaken by the offices of Knight Errant Investigations deserve to reach a wider audience.
All six novels in the Louie Knight series are currently available via Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
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