Monday, 16 March 2009

One Man's Meat - Colin Watson

Murder, blackmail, and the absurdities of big business are once more the playground and target of Colin Watson. But there is not so much bounce, not so much throw and fetch as in previous books in the series. This one suffers a bit from trying to tie two plots together and it has an unsatisfactory ending. The character that winds up the story and gets everyone out of trouble is an interesting creation, but she is overused here and it deflates what has promised to be a darker book.

That said, it is still tightly written and creates the atmosphere of the times (the early 1970s) with deft character portraits and well realised scenes. Much of this is in the detail. A whole way of life for elderly people in sheltered accommodation, for example, is given in an amusing anecdote that takes up a couple of paragraphs. The proprietors of a hotel are equally vivid and endowed with a life beyond their brief appearance.

Not, then, the best of the series, but still a book worth reading even if only for the appreciation of a author who knows how to write in a quiet, literate, unfussy way that is richer than many of its anaemic literary counterparts. That alone lifts above a great deal of other work.