Friday, December 21, 2007

Turn and face the strange

Does all the Christmas cheer get you so down that you are looking for some adultery and murder, of the literary sort? Then Michael Dibdin's Dirty Tricks may be just your book. Dibdin is best know for his Aurelio Zen mysteries, but I think his stand-alones, like the Last Sherlock Holmes Story, are more fun.

This volume is a witty, acid look at the British class structure, including the Thatcherite nouveau riche, ca. 1991. The main character, Tim, undergoing an extradition investigation in a Latin American country describes his take on the crimes he is said to have committed. Returning to Britain after years abroad teaching English, the narrator Tim begins to connive his way into wealth via adultery and skulduggery. The twists and turns as he tries to maintain his position are the fun of the tale. And as it turns out Tim may not be the only one sleeping in the wrong bed. It sounds quite a bit like Matchpoint, but it is funnier and presents a broader cultural attack than the Allen film.

The narrator, who is a truly reprehensible person, is not unlike Tony Soprano. He is a likable person who occasionally reveals what a terrible person he is. The reader laughs along with his observations and then recoils at his actions or his often baldly stated cruelty. And as you might expect a predator like Tim forgets that sometimes they chase the wrong prey.

No comments: