Review: ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Aberystwyth’ by Malcolm Pryce

Okay, while I freely admit that going into book shops often makes me act like a kid in a candy store, oddly there are only a few book series I actively follow. One of these is Malcolm Pryce’s ‘Louie Knight’ series, though I tend to end up referring to it as the Aberystwyth series.

For those of you not familiar, the series (which begins with ‘Aberystwyth Mon Amour’, followed by ‘Last Tango in Aberystwyth’ and ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth’) is a pastiche of hard-boiled noir crime fiction set in the quaint little welsh seaside town in the titles. And it is great.

This one sees Louie and and his partner Calamity caught up investigating the murder of Santa Claus, or at least a man who’s job was to pose as him. As it turns out, the stiff left a message in his last moments, writing the name ‘Hoffmann’ in his own blood. Louie is left to find out not only who is this Hoffmann, but why is everyone looking for him, why are people willing to kill in order to find him, and just what is his connection to canine film superstar Clip and a dark secret from the welsh war in Patagonia?

In the first three books, it seemed the series was getting progressively more surreal and silly, and I wasn’t sure where on earth book four would end up. As it turns out, Don’t Cry For Me is rather more down to earth than the previous two outings and draws on the cold war thriller in its themes and plot. (Yes, after describing it up there I know that may sound unlikely.) As always, there is a lot of humour to the book, but a lot of it is decidedly dark, and while it has been a while since I read the previous three books, Louie’s musings seem much darker and more bitter than before, the world weary side to the detective and his disillusionment with the seedy underbelly Aberystwyth and mankind in general showing itself much more.

None the less, like I said, it is still very funny, and there is plenty of the absurdity and sharp parody that made me love the other books in the series. The plot is fantastically convoluted, fitting perfectly with the espionage side of the pastiche, and Louie’s dismissal of the new dark and dangerous would he gets caught up in is very entertaining.

All in all… well, it’s a strange book, swinging between fun and absurd to often poetic bitter reflections on human nature… but for me, it just kinda works. I’m not sure if it is the best in the series, and coming after the craziness of Last Tango and The Unbearable Lightness this one is much, MUCH more subdued. But it is nicely written, and does a good job spoofing the noir and cold war thriller genres while still actually managing to create a believable gritty hard boiled town out of Aberystwyth, despite the pure silliness that runs through the concept. Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth is a solid, entertaining novel, though for this series I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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2 Responses to “Review: ‘Don’t Cry for Me, Aberystwyth’ by Malcolm Pryce”

  1. C.Rooney Says:

    Will you bring me a copy of Aberystwyth Mon Amour? It’s been difficult to find on this side of the Atlantic.

  2. KT Says:

    Yeah sure. :)

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