Senses and sensibility: Aberystwyth Mon Amour
Author Malcolm Pryce sets the story in Aberystwyth, a town on Wales' west coast for whose past glories he apparently has much affection. Yet the book also acknowledges, sadly perhaps, the need for Aberystwyth to update itself. In fact, it's possible, at least for a reader like me who knows nothing of Wales and its coast, to read the novel as an elegy to an old Aberystwyth of ice cream stands and whelk stalls and a final acceptance of a new one of cappuccino and biscotti.
But the book is a murder mystery and a thriller, and Pryce delights in deadpan humor and in words amusing for their own sake. He also excels, particularly in the novel's opening chapters, at creating a sense of place by appealing to the senses.
The mystery is the disappearance of a string of schoolboys and then of a dancer at Aberystwyth's notorious nightclub, the Moulin. Louie Knight, the private investigator whose office is furnished with old library furniture, takes the case and is soon immersed in a shady half-world of gangsters, secret societies, Welsh mythology and a plot that could destroy the town.
I suspect that reaching the book's final destination was more than half the fun for Pryce. Who would think otherwise with bits like:
"The grandeur was now sadly defaced by charmless municipal sign boards: Combinations and Corsetry; Two-Headed Calves and other Curios; Coelcanths."and
"I rolled a six and a one, and set off on my journey around the board. How many other people, honeymooners and young families, had made the same journey as the rain swept in from the sea and pounded on the plywood roof of their shoebox on wheels? Families who had driven for two or three hours, stopping occasionally for puking children, to the world of gorse and marram grass, dunes and bingo and fish and chips."and possibly my favorite:
"A gleam of comprehension appeared in the waters of her eyes and the mauve iris of her mouth opened like a sea anemone's vagina."© Peter Rozovsky 2009