(Colin) Bateman’s latest offering sees a big change in direction from the likes of his Dan Starkey series. ORPHEUS RISING still has that cool dry wit that the Bangor man employs with casual ease, but it’s less frequent and more understated in this novel. And for this particular story, it seems to be the perfect amount of humour. I think that Bateman had a story to tell and although it was very different than anything he’s tried before, he’s listened to his instincts and told it the way he thought best. I have to say, it worked a bloody treat.
I coasted through this book with utter ease and loved every sentence. It seems as if he’s really upped his game since I PREDICT A RIOT. The writing is much denser than his usual minimalist style, but I didn’t feel bogged down by description or superfluous detail. Each word counted. And so the result is a huge story that still manages to weigh in at a smidge under 400 hardback pages.
ORPHEUS RISING is the poignant tale of Michael Ryan, an Irish writer who found the love of his life under dramatic circumstances (involving a shark and grisly amputation) and lost her soon after to a violent death (even more violent than the shark thing). Without spoiling the plot for potential readers, I’ll tell you that we accompany Michael on his return to the Florida town of Brevard, ten years after he found happiness and had it ripped from him, to face up to the ghosts of his past.
I was very surprised by the supernatural content in ORPHEUS RISING. Again, I’m wary of spoilers and there’s not a lot you can talk about without robbing the book of some of its impact, so I’ll not go into how or why he uses it. Just trust me when I say, he does it with the aptitude of the likes of Stephen King or John Connolly, and I hope it’s an area he revisits in future work. He sets up a powerful world and sticks rigidly to his own rules, and the transition into suspension of disbelief is an easy one for the reader as a result.
His next book will see a return to form, with MYSTERY MAN, a detective story set in the real No Alibis bookshop in Belfast, but featuring a fictional owner. Not David Torrans. But maybe in the book after next he’ll bend the boundaries of his chosen genre? I hope so. He does it very well.
Orpheus Rising is a rare example of a perfect book. – Gerard Brennan
This review is republished by the kind permission of Crime Scene Northern Ireland
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.