Physicists, Caves, Murders and Mynah Birds
Most of us have watched a large number of crime/mystery/thriller stories. Fewer of us (but quite a number) have also read many books on this genre, from Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie to the new craze for Scandinavian authors. We all like to think we can spot who the killer is and work out motives and reasons. I don’t know if like me, when you read (or watch) one of these stories, you come out wondering if it all really fits in as neatly as it appears or if given time you’d find holes in the story. But you plunge ahead taken by the rhythm of the writing or the performance and are left satisfied. ‘Death Is Overrated’ is one of these novels that will leave you satisfied. The author is careful at sharing and revealing clues that come together neatly at the end, but keeps enough information hidden to make sure you don’t have one of those ‘a-ha’ moments in the first pages. You might have your suspicions, but getting the full story is a fairly tricky business.
What makes ‘Death Is Overrated’ different to other books in the genre? Mr Perren does not go for the tried and tested. Yes, we have a number of amateur detectives, the main one Thomas Payne (good name, although this Thomas sometimes shows little of the ‘Common Sense’ his historical namesake so loudly proclaimed), an American physicist who is a victim of mistaken identity and ends up accused of having killed himself. He is not the typical suave charmer. He’s a physicist, who loves caves and is pretty secretive about his life (for very good reasons that I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to read the book). Somebody is clearly at work trying to kill him, and goes beyond that crime, to annihilating any way that would allow him to establish his identity (and it made me reflect of how vulnerable we might be, not only to identity theft, but even to being erased, like in ‘The Net’), and he desperately needs allies. He has a friend-colleague, Rhys, who shares interests (even a romantic interest as it happens) and will go to any lengths to help him. And he meets Terri, the daughter of the chief inspector in charge of the case. She’s a sculptor who has a difficult but affectionate relationship with her father and as we find out, shares more than a few things with Thomas. The main characters are well drawn, flawed, and likeable, and the author piles up complication after complication, never letting us draw breath for more than a few pages, before we’re rushed again, climbing, swimming, driving, flying, and even being almost eaten by a shark. We travel through Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland and one can’t help but think that if there is a movie (and there should be) and it keeps to the settings, it would be an astoundingly gorgeous one. And pretty fast.
I’m not sure I’ve yet mentioned important scientific discoveries, Quakers, estranged fathers, electrocutions, yachts, Mynah birds, guns, hammers, computers, phones, passports, dead bodies, motorcycles, crazed landladies, determined immigration agents, attempted rapes, claustrophobia, nature… and more.
The author maintains a good pace throughout; the language is accessible with some amusing comparisons and turns of phrase and there is enough suffering, humour and even romance to keep everybody happy.
‘Death Is Overrated’ is a good addition to the genre and it will keep readers guessing until the end. If you enjoy adventures, mystery, and hate being bored, this book is made for you. Go and get it!
I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.