Fatally Cricket (The Professional and Higher Partnership Ltd: 2013). In the latest of the series, Haselhurst's casual (and usually drunk) cricket team – the Outcasts C.C. – enter the realms of murder mystery. When the upper echelons of a village cricket team keep succumbing to strange deaths, some of the Outcasts sense foul play. It’s up to them to work out what’s going on and convince the others something has to be done, in-between innings (and pints), of course.
Full disclosure – Alan Haselhurst is my father-in-law. Please don’t blame him for that, he has no control over the poor decision making of his daughter. And I promise to try my damndest to keep the review as unbiased as humanly possible.
Disclaimer out of the way, on to the review.
Books are full of annoying intangibles. The more you read (and the more you think about what you read) the more obvious this becomes.
The workshops and the how-to guides are full of the tangibles – structuring, theme, character dimensions, and all that jazz. But for a story to leap from textbook exercise to bloody good read, it needs to mix in all the difficult to pin down blighters too – atmosphere, voice, colour, yadda, yadda, yadda.
It’s those intangibles that make Fatally Cricket jump out at you. Sure, the book has the regular and recognizable hallmarks the rest of the Outcast C.C. series does. It has intricate plotting (the kind of plate-spinning that sets the platform for Haselhurst’s keen sense of farce). It has spoons of Wodehousian slapstick humour. It has its fair share of idyllic villages and raucous pub scenes. And all that is perfectly fun thank you very much.
But when the dust has settled, those aren’t the bits you will remember strongest about Fatally Cricket. What you’ll remember is the intangible atmosphere and tone it strikes. It’s warm and it’s comfortable. It’s idealistic in the best way. It makes you want to go to the pub, or pick up a cricket bat, or generally live in a world where it’s always Sunday and the sky is always blue. It puts you in such a damned happy place that you don’t want to finish it.
That intangible sense of scene has been present from the very first adventure of the Outcasts, but in Fatally Cricket it is more accomplished and complete than ever. This is the latest in a series of six (and counting) books penned by Alan (as I’m allowed to call him, having married his daughter and all). And if I was you, I’d pick this one up first. It’s the best. It’s the most interesting stage Alan has set his team of Outcasts on, and it’s written with the confidence of someone who knows exactly what he wants to achieve. It’s written by someone who loves the atmosphere he’s creating, and he makes you love it too.
I promise, I’m not just saying that because Mrs GBR would give me hell if I didn’t. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
And because I love talking to people about writing (and then telling you chumps about it), there’ll be an interview with Alan up here soon as well.
Hopefully that’ll guarantee me an extra helping of pâté this Christmas…
Next week, I should finally have finished Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining. I’ll tell you about it just as soon as I stop trembling.