Friday, July 01, 2016

Review: King Death by Toby Litt


King Death
My first Toby Litt, grabbed off the shelf on impulse. I suppose it was the cover and the black of the page edges that did it for me.
Litt comes up with a visceral blood-and-guts story of blackmail, murder, vengeance, and justice. He also throws in a potted biography of the poet John Keats’ career in medicine or what stood for medicine in the 19th century.Unusually for Litt, the narrative is split into two strains, the main characters occupying one each, both proving to be somewhat unreliable, somewhat egotistical, this approach balances the gore with some cleverly worked humor about gender and cultural differences.
As you can see from the above quote of a review, the events are presented to us via two accounts: his and hers. A brilliant ploy, save that it often makes for boring reiterations in this case.

The idea for the characters is pretty cool: a Japanese woman who has done some phenomenal art projects, 



a British lover who's into improv...sundry medical students - some of whom are absolute bimbos, the author's romantic vision of the UK's homeless, train journeys, pubs, old abandoned houses, chases across railway tracks and, most enticing of all, a human heart seen falling from a train window!

The more I write this the more I'm convinced that Toby has an ongoing infatuation, like me, with Japanese crime writing/dramas/films.

I’m sorry to say that this book did not pass my ADHD style of reading. Perhaps it’s Higashino who’s to blame:
The clever narrative techniques adopted by Higashino keep the reader guessing as a cat and mouse game ensues and we are drawn deeper into a maze of complex relationships that date back to Hidaka and Nonoguchi’s school days. Alternating chapters are voiced by different characters: first there’s Nonoguchi’s own account of the murder, then the detective’s notes and, towards the end, transcripts of interviews with old acquaintances. But how to know whose story and recollection is true? That is the question.
After such tidy writing and such a neat handling of plot and structure, it is not easy to wade through work that is ill thought out and more than a bit self consciously pompous.

Not too bad a read at all, though - a fairly happy marriage of Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie.

My sour tongue apart, read it for the gory scenes at the climax, the literary history tidbits and, most of all, for Kimiko’s art projects.

I might try another soon as, all in all, Litt seems an interesting phenomenon.

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