Summary: Highly entertaining soft-core Brexity fantasy
The second book in Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club series, The Man Who Died Twice returns to the genteel environs of its predecessor.
Like many second books in series, from Denis Lehane to JK Rowling, one can feel Osman getting into his stride, having established his universe and now able to concentrate more on the evolving story rather than scene-setting.
The Man Who Died Twice is a more overtly right-wing work than its predecessor. In it roughish-diamond coppers think nothing of fitting up suspects they just know are guilty, and the book’s pensioner heroes take the law into their own hands with the casual disdain for due process of the most knuckle headed of authoritarians.
Doubtless this will play well with the Daily Mail readers who are a core demographic in this book’s audience. But even so, it would have been nice if Osman showed the slightest knowledge of the brutal realities of child slavery in “county lines” and the operation of the British drugs economy if he is going to include such things in his books.
But that would probably upset the soft-core fantasy for Brexity readers. Instead this is a world with few complexities and no bad language, in which foreigns know their place, and plucky have-a-go British heroes with bulldog spirit always triumph over the baddies and are home in time for cocoa.
In spite of its politics, The Man Who Died Twice is a highly entertaining affair, with plenty of good jokes and a twisty plot. Even without the unicorns, it’s a vision of sunlit uplands that is as close as the English are ever going to get to the Brexit they thought they voted for. So it’s hard to grudge them their fairytales, particularly when they are as elegantly written as this.
Summary: rom-coms that show us how the world can be a better place
Once, many years ago, when he was still “The Joan Collins’ Fan Club”, I went to see a performance by Julian Clary. Large chunks of his material were old jokes, deliberately chosen, and with charm and elegance he would imbue every other line with salacious double entendres. I don’t think I laughed as much that whole year… but it was Belfast in the middle of the Troubles when it rained all the time. So there was that.
I was reminded of that Julian Clary show reading Nicola Yaeger’s books: they are unashamed romantic comedies, so you know pretty much what the plot is going to be from the first page. That is the nature of romantic comedies – apart from The Love Letter: man that is the bleakest romantic comedy I have ever sat through. Don’t watch it if you are feeling fragile. Try something more light-hearted like Calvary instead.
Because sometimes the joyful assurance of the romantic comedy is exactly what you need: when I worked in Angola during the civil war there I used to hire a pile of romantic comedy movies every weekend just to have something to remind me that there were kinder places and people than the warlords who plagued one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
But I digress. Much as Ms Yaeger occasionally does in her wonderfully entertaining books. Read these and you’ll learn about art, Eastern European tall tales, surfing, and cooking in such a way as to make you want to book a surfing lesson or buy a new book about French cuisine.
Nicola Yaeger is a charming and extremely funny writer, the sort who rarely bothers with the double bit of the entendre. Like Julian Clary at his best, like all of literature if we are being honest, she retells old stories in elegant, new ways, reminding us there are kinder places and people out there, people who will make you laugh and care about your well-being.
In a world full of complete feckers who are busy brexiting up our fragile planet for all they are worth, it is good to be reminded of this sometimes. And Nicola Yeager does that in glorious fashion.
Summary: Catch-22 for the millennium generation
Emery gets a job with an exciting new tech-condiment-start-up, Yes We Mustard, a company whose business model and CEO bear ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLENCE to Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg. Soon, her desire to be loved for saving the world and become an inspirational GIRL BOSS, leads her to investigate the mysterious “addictive fructose powder” that is being put into the company’s exciting condiment products.
Ginny Hogan’s satire is a glorious affair. With a joke rate comparable to a great Marx Brothers’ movie, she lampoons everything that crosses her path, from corporate culture (“now you can listen to your great and heroic CEO”), to faux-feminism (“when a man fires someone it’s mean, but when a woman fires someone it’s empowering”), to the eternal shallowness of men (“men don’t like her because she’s a good person. Men like her because she’s insanely hot”). Her real targets though are ignorance and selfishness – things that the ENLIGHTENED leaders of Facebook and their ilk are in no way responsible for just because their entire business models are based on their promotion.
Ginny Hogan has been an impressive stand-up for a number of years now. Based on Yes We Mustard she is also a gifted playwright. I look forward to more of both from her in the years to come.
Check it out on audible or here: https://podtail.com/podcast/the-audio-verse-awards-nominee-showcase-podcast/2021-showcase-yes-we-mustard/