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Any avid readers out there will know the sensation of déjà vu they get when reading certain authors. In crime this is particularly prevalent as authors return to the same type of story and characters in search of guaranteed success in the book stores. As a reader you guiltily lap up another cookie cutter book feeling in your comfort zone. However, eventually things will be repeated too often, even the most loyal of fans will begin to question the authors ability to create new and interesting stories - perhaps the sales will begin to drop off. One tactic to avoid this is to once in a while write a totally different type of book. If the author fails at least they have tried something different. Thankfully not all authors fail here, some reinvigorate themselves and once more show the world their talent. I am glad to say that with 'Orpheus Rising' Colin Bateman just may have reinvented himself as a more mature and intelligent author.
Michael Ryan is the author of 'Space Coast' a sensation that rocked the US ten years ago. The book tells the story of a small town and it was based on Michael's real life. However, in the early days of the book being published a tragedy shook Michael's life when his wife, Claire, was shot dead during a bank robbery. Now Michael is preparing to return to the small town he once lived in after ten years to explore the past. This book is a journal of this time and the past - the only thing we know is that he dies at the end...
I rate Bateman very highly; in fact, he is probably my favourite UK author. Over more than ten years he has been able to produce dark and funny crime novels that have entertained me greatly. Bateman specialises in creating anti heroes that you love to hate. Men who cheat on their wives, drink too much and swear. Despite their flaws you end up loving them as they are hilarious and a lot of the time are actually right in what they do. Initially, it seems that 'Orpheus Rising' would sit comfortably in Bateman's back catalogue - but little was I to know...
Even if the start of 'Orpheus' has typical Bateman elements of dark humour it is also almost immediately apparent that it is different. For one the structure is different. This book is written as a last will and testament of an author, you know from the start that he dies at the end. This melancholy sits through the entire book and gives it a more brooding impact than the rest of Bateman's work. As an author of comedy crime novels you may expect Bateman's studies of grief to be new to him. This is the not the case as these themes have popped up before especially in the case of a child dying. Those earlier Bateman books touched on grief, 'Orpheus' is about grief.
There are moments doted throughout the book that remind you of the gallows humour you expect from the author and this is mainly down to the characters of Michael. He is an Irishman in America and he brings his sardonic wit with him. Bateman makes you really care about the character by structuring the book to run the story of Michael's death parallel to the events leading to the death of his wife ten years earlier. It is wonderful how these two separate story elements impact one another and lead to ...
One of the biggest surprises I have ever read. The second half of 'Orpheus Rising' is an almost completely different experience to the first. I can not go into detail about what happens but the impact it has on you is profound. The twin elements in the book change so quickly and with no warning that it was almost too much to take in. For around 50 pages of the book I felt a little lost as I could not believe the direction it was taking. Once I managed to steady myself again the book settled back into a good rhythm, but my memory of reading this will always be tainted with the surprise that will either make or break it for countless readers.
In my opinion Bateman should be praised for taking a risk. 'Orpheus Rising' is a more mature and intelligent novel than any of his other work, but it still manages to be funny at times. With great characters it is only the jarring change of direction halfway through that detracts from it. However, give it a few pages and you soon find the rhythm of the book again and without this change the book would not be as good as it is. I would recommend this to crime fans looking for something a little different, but also to former Bateman fans - this is the perfect book to get you back into the author.
Author: Colin Bateman
Price: amazon uk - £5.99
play.com - £5.99