*I received a free copy of this book with thanks to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources blog tours. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: With a jangle of keys, a door opened. Herbert clanked in, his arms locked to his sides, his ankles shackled, his face a Hannibal Lecter mask. He was overjoyed to see me.
“Marco, I’m jailed day and night with murderous thugs who can’t tell Schiller from Shakespeare. I’m desperate for intellectual stimulus—but you’ll do for now.”
TV personality Marco Ocram is the world’s only self-penned character, writing his life in real time as you read it. Marco’s celebrity mentor, Herbert Quarry, grooms him to be the Jackson Pollock of literature, teaching him to splatter words on a page without thought or revision.
Quarry’s plan backfires when imbecilic Marco begins to type his first thought-free book: it’s a murder mystery—and Herbert’s caught red-handed near the butchered body of his lover.
Now Marco must write himself into a crusade to clear his friend’s name. Typing the first words that come into his head, Marco unleashes a phantasmagorical catalogue of twists in his pursuit of justice, writing the world’s fastest-selling book to reveal the awful truth about the Herbert Quarry affair.
One of my first questions on reading The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize was whether the ‘Herbert Quarry Affair’ book referenced was real… and now it is!
Cleverly parodying a certain similarly named mystery (The Truth About the Harry Quibert Affair) in his own inimitable style, Marco Ocram introduces readers to main character, Marco Ocram; his police ‘partner’, Como; and his mentor, the possibly murderous Herbert Quarry.
What follows is a murder mystery in which the main character writes the action as he goes along, never planning ahead, never editing, never quite knowing what he is doing. The result is a witty, chaotic crime novel – verging on the surreal – which scoffs at the standard rules of writing and genre, and wanders back and forth through the fourth wall as if it is merely a net curtain.
I love it!
I do have to confess that I haven’t read Joël Dicker’s original mystery, nor the Umberto Eco medieval mystery that inspired another ‘Awful Truth’ book, and I do intend to remedy this, as I feel my re-reading experience will be enhanced richly by this further context. However, I stand as living proof that you don’t need to read those books to thoroughly enjoy Marco Ocram’s oeuvre – they each stand alone, on their own merits, as individual works of creative genius.
And in my opinion, this is the best book of the three chaotic, comedic meta-mysteries that comprise the series so far. Marco attempts to clear his literary mentor from allegations that he has brutally murdered his lover. Working with the long-suffering voice of sense and procedure, Como, Marco investigates a plethora of suspects – including the police chief, a professor of prized renown and some very unusual twists on the standard suspect tropes – using his unique investigatory technique of making it all up as he goes along. The plot, as usual, hinges on an array of unlikely coincidences, technical malfunctions and bluffed expertise.
Yet Marco’s alleged incompetence doesn’t manage to hide how accomplished a writer the actual author of this book is. Every page is packed with clever word play, sly references and witty repartee. It is joyful, irreverent and a pleasure to read.
Denis Shaughnessy… I mean, Marco Ocram… is a literary original and I fervently hope he has plenty more Awful inspiration up his authorial sleeves, and that is the honest Truth!
Piqued by his hurtful comments, I changed the subject to our forthcoming interview with Bow. I suggested we adopt the good-cop bad-cop routine, with me as the bad-cop.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” said Como.
“You ain’t a cop—you’re a writer.”
“OK, then let’s do the good-cop bad-writer routine, with me as the bad-writer.”
“That should work.”– Marco Ocram, The Awful Truth About the Herbert Quarry Affair
The Awful Truth About the Herbert Quarry Affair is available on Amazon right now, and you can find my reviews of The Awful Truth About the Sushing Prize right here and The Awful Truth About the Name of the Rose here!
Don’t forget to stop by the other blogs on this tour (see the poster below for details) for more great content and reviews!