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*** Background to Plot ***
This book could be described in several different ways, and they would all be true. I could tell you that it is about MI5. I could tell you that it is romantic. Or I could tell you that it is about three male friends, aged 50 plus, discussing what changes they will have to cope with, or how to remain youthful, and wondering what alternative would make them the happiest.
One way I can't describe the plot is a Who-Dun-It. This is because they suspect someone with a lot of money of serious crime, but need to investigate to discover what, if anything, this Chinaman is doing wrong.
The 50 plus scenario is one that is familiar to my family. (My hubby had to change his fire-fighting job to one more suitable to an ageing body.) As for the secret service and romantic elements, they made for interesting and pleasant vicarious thoughts. Now the author is more mature, he also seems to have swapped at least some of the manual gardening work he used to do, for less physically demanding employment.
Some good and bad news from the mouth of Dr Devon to his 50 plus friends is, "Our reactions are slower and our reflexes not quite what they were, but our powers of reasoning are, in many cases, more well developed."
Let me tell you a little about the three men. One is a doctor who felt he had to leave his local GP practice and now does a little locum work, and a lot of gardening. Another is an ex-RAF pilot who now flies a helicopter for a living. The last one hasn't found it necessary to change his job as a "Civil Servant". Two out of three thought they were happily married, one of those actually is, and the other seems to be commitment shy.
They all seem to want to do something more exciting than they are currently doing. The highlight of some weeks seems to be their meeting in the local pub to play dominoes. Then excitement does come their way. More than they were expecting. Perhaps that will cure them of being scared to be just content.
I liked and could identify with the three main characters. I've no doubt that these were based on the personal experiences of the aged 50+ author and his friends. (Alan Titchmarsh was born in 1949.) Some of the other characters were a little under-developed, but adequate for me to enjoy the plot.
At the beginning of each of the 26 chapters there is a quote from a diverse range of sources such as the Koran to Woody Allen. For those who want some extra brain stimulation, I leave it to you to find out how theses connect to the plot. One relevant one to the school holidays is, "My mother taught me as a boy, even to confess you're bored means you have no inner resources." But modern youngsters would probably answer this back, if they understood it, that is.
*** The Author ***
Alan Titchmarsh's early career was exclusively gardening. After a good grounding in his specialist subject, he has now branched out into all sorts of entertainment and educational media.
As far as writing is concerned, he has now added the following fiction titles to his mainly gardening and natural history titles: Rosie, Only Dad, Animal Instincts, The Last Lighthouse Keeper and Mr McGregor. So far, the only other one I have read is Animal Instincts, and I think the main characters are better developed in Love and Dr Devon.
I sensed the author really enjoyed adding his knowledge and love of gardening to this plot. Also the Hampshire countryside around the River Itchen village, where Dr Devon lives, seems to have a personal touch.
He appears to have done quite a lot of research for the medical and flying parts of the plot, with the help of qualified people, but asks readers not to blame his helpers if he has misunderstood them.
If you want to keep up to date with his latest work, check out his new natural history programme for the BBC "Nature of Britain", due to start on 10 October.
Or if you fancy a bit of Alan on a weekday afternoon, turn to ITV1 for "The Alan Titchmarsh Show", where you can get chat with celebrities and unsung heros, a bit of music and art, plus lifestyle advice, which can even include gardening.
*** Recommendation ***
Recommended if you would light a light read with detective work, adventure, and a little romance. The themes are sometimes very serious, but I think that these are well balanced by lighter moments.
Sex and violence are included but not graphically described. This will no doubt disappoint some, and be a relief to others. As for me, I was quite capable of imagining the scenes as colourfully as I wanted them to be.
Due to the comparative lightness of the plot, if I were to read this book again, it would not be in the near future. But based on this experience, I would be happy to try more of his fictional books.
Over 50s will probably appreciate it more, but hopefully some younger readers will also enjoy seeing life through the eyes of the more "mature", and see the funny side, where appropriate.
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books; New Ed edition (8 May 2007)
It's not easy being a doctor, especially when your wife has run off in search of excitement and you're given the push from your practice for sticking up for your principles. Christopher Devon tries to make a new life and, after a bit of persuasion from his daughter, to meet a new woman. But how to find one? And how to placate a son who thinks you should never have split up in the first place? Dr Devon is not the only man with woman trouble. Tiger Wilson has been married just a little too comfortably for thirty years, and Gary Flynn is a serial womaniser who refuses to settle down. But during one month in spring they are all about to have their lives turned upside down, and not just by women. In seeking to add a little excitement to their lives, they get rather more than they bargained for. They all have their secrets, and they are all exposed to danger. The result? Death, danger, intrigue and passion. Will Dr Devon find true love and live happily ever after? Or will the bitter pill of reality prove a fly in the ointment of his dreams?