ONE DEAD HEN by Charlie Williams

Out now: amazon encore.

My reading and blogging has taken a real kicking this past week.  Time that would have usually been spent in the evenings reading some great books and tweeting/blogging about them was sidelined for constant television watching, radio listening and twitter-feed checking for the latest on the riots that were threatening to arrive on my doorstep at any moment.

The House of Reeves furniture store was pretty close to home, and then the rioters hit shops and homes in my home town too, so checking doors and windows, making sure fire extinguishers and baseball bat were close to hand has unfortunately meant a lot of catching up to do now.  The ironic thing in all of this was that bookstores remained untouched – what? None of the rioters wanted a good read for the journey home?

Anyway, I digress, and first off the pile as the fires died down was the perfect antidote to the troubles – a fantastically funny and fast paced book entitled ONE DEAD HEN by Charlie Williams.

I’d seen Charlie at Harrogate last year and added him to my list of authors to seek out, having listened with interest to the antics of his leading man, pub and club doorman Royston Blake.  But, as is always the case with Harrogate, you always come away with a very long list and it wasn’t until now that I got the chance to try him and his character out with this, his fourth tale of the dodgy town of Mangel and the dodgy people who populate it.

Royston Blake is a great character, trying in this book to move on and join the Police – but only if he can go plain clothes straight away and drive a black Ferrari – even if it is actually an old Ford Capri with a pink bodykit that he has to paint black.  He wants to be Don Johnson in Miami Vice and is almost given the chance with a possible offer of £300 to catch The Reaper – a serial killer who has started to claim female victims and leave them minus their heads across the town.

The biggest problem Royston has, however, is not the Police or the killer, it’s himself and his often misunderstanding of his situation.  The confusion over phrases or words lands him in scrape after scrape with many in town – particularly the ladies in his life, or those he’d like to have in his life.

He sees his Mam in the face of a statue, around which other statues are peeing, he refers to himself as the ‘prostitute’ son when he means prodigal and he thinks ‘extracurricular’ was very sad at the end when the spaceship takes the alien away.  Told in the first person, he also has a great way of putting down the reader by repeating information when he thinks we won’t have been paying attention.

Yes, it’s a crime novel, but it’s a hell of a lot more than that and I loved the voice in ONE DEAD HEN and will be sure to be tracking down the earlier Royston Blake books very soon.

As Royston himself would say, as he always uses his swede, this ONE DEAD HEN is a top bird !

Keith

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