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Seiichi

A Light-hearted Look at Murder, Mark Watson

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After suffering an embarrassing breakup with her boyfriend, Alexandra moves in with her brother and his flatmate Gareth, both of whom are indifferent to her presence. Stuck in a dead-end job, and cut off from her circle of friends, she finds herself volunteering for the WriteToAConvict Scheme by chance. The pen pal she chooses is Andreas, who is serving time following "a series of events too freakish and appalling to recount." Andreas is quiet and has little to say, but unexpectedly unloads his story to Alexandra in the form of his memoirs written in his native German. Fortunately for Alexandra, Gareth offers to translate for her.

"Hitler moustaches are not popular in Germany as novelty items, but it is nonetheless with one of these artefacts that everything started."

So begins the story of Andreas and how he met and fell in love with Rose, the fifth tallest woman in Britain.

 

When I heard that Mark Watson had written two books, I immediately bought them, confident that I would be pleased with both. I had enjoyed his first novel Bullet Points and was looking forward to this book. My expectations have not been disappointed. The writing is familiar: there's the element of the character looking back on his life and setting his thoughts to paper. The difference between this novel and Bullet Points is that there are two very different voices being related as the book alternates between Alexandra's current life and Andreas' past. Both lead solitary lives in their own way, and soon finding out Andreas' story becomes the one interesting thing in Alexandra's life.

 

The big question, of course, is what did Andreas do to land him in prison. It's this that drives both Alexandra and the reader on. Gareth teases the reader by delivering translated scripts in installments that he admits to ending in some kind of cliffhanger. Through them we learn how Andreas found himself in the celebrity lookalike industry---a concept completely alien to him, and of his career as an Adolf Hitler impersonator as he struggles to make sense of the English language and British humour. There's a strange mix of characters involved, but Mark Watson writes intelligently, portraying them simply as people trying to make their way in life, avoiding caricature. Andreas himself is a sympathetic character. Throughout the book it's difficult to believe he could have done something so terrible to warrant such a long prison sentence. Andreas himself is reticent about his past so it's only through Alexandra's reading that his story unfolds. It's a device that works very well, keeping the story fresh. This is a strong second novel from Mark Watson and one that I would highly recommend, together with Bullet Points.

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