Monday 14 July 2014

White Rabbit by K.A. Laity

Sometimes the shadows that haunt us are what lead us back to the light

Disgraced former police detective James Draygo has sunk as low as his habit allows, working as a fake psychic despite his very real talents. When a media mogul’s trashy trophy wife gets gunned down at his tapping table he has to decide whether he can straighten up long enough to save his own skin. He may not have a choice with Essex’s loudest ghost bawling in his ear about cults, conspiracies and cut-rate drugs. Oblivion sounds better all the time…

From Goodreads Description 

This book starts as old-fashioned crime noir: a rich woman fearing her man seeks help from washed-up former cop. It happens to be a genre I am very fond of and before my self-imposed task of reading and reviewing magic realist books I would often be found with my nose in a Ross Macdonald or Raymond Chandler. So when this magic realist take on crime noir crossed my laptop screen I jumped at the chance to read it. 

From the first line Draygo is narrating in the crime noir style with dry witty descriptions. Add a wise-cracking tough young female reporter who Draygo compares to Lauren Bacall and we are in familiar territory. This is a clever book and it wears its cleverness on its sleeve: Draygo has a habit of referencing Shakespeare, Webster, P G Wodehouse, Ghostbusters, famous spiritualists, to say nothing of various fictional detectives and of course Lewis Carroll. 

Then you get the twist - Draygo is playing at being a fake medium, but actually does communicate with the dead, or rather they communicate with him, much against his will.  This is not a completely new idea. Hilary Mantel used it in Beyond Black, but that was not a detective story. The victim in White Rabbit - an Essex moll by the name of Peaches Dockmuir - makes a wonderful ghost who is seriously pissed with her husband for bumping her off. 

So far so good. I was really enjoying the read and the ride, but with the arrival of the villain (an Australian media magnate with headquarters in Canary Wharf) and his heavies things started to go wrong for me - not seriously as I still enjoyed the read but not as much as before. The book started to move away from magic realism.  Instead of being in a Philip Marlowe book we had moved into a comic sci-fi adventure with a James Bond villain. Whilst I loved the crime-noir spiritualism mash-up, this was taking it a bit too far and the plot became predictable: climax scene in the villain's lair, anyone? Nevertheless White Rabbit was an enjoyable read.

I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in return for a fair review.

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