Recent Events

Monday, 11 January 2016

‘The Piltdown Picasso’ by Robin Richards

Published by Troubadour,
8 July 2015.
ISBN: 978 1 784623 197 (PB)

Some self-published books live down to the standard I’ve been led to expect over the years; others, thank goodness, don’t. The Piltdown Picasso is one of the second kind.

In some ways it’s a classic of its kind: ordinary guy stumbles into a situation he’s ill-equipped to handle, and through a mixture of initiative and old-fashioned luck, emerges from it triumphant. The ordinary guy is Matthew Fairfax, known as Fax, former prison psychologist, now unemployed and of no fixed abode for reasons which become evident; the situation involves a murdered TV star and a painting ostensibly worth £25 million.

What sets this novel apart from others from a similar mould is that it’s plain from the outset that the author has done his homework. It’s set in the art world, or more accurately in the art world’s shady side, and though it’s a world I know nothing whatever about, the background rang true and the journey through it was a surefooted one.

That journey is something of a romp, written in a jaunty style which hints at the ridiculous nature of the whole adventure. Our Hero careens from police cell to posh restaurant to dark alley to private view in an exclusive gallery, and bounces back from one beating after another with enviable resilience. There’s a girl, of course: Gabi, a beautician turned personal assistant, who dons the mantle of efficient businesswoman along with a smart suit and new hairdo and knows how to get herself out of trouble.

The supporting cast is colourful and slightly larger than life, as befits arty types and heavy-footed policemen. I especially enjoyed Magnus Darbyshire, art restorer to the Old Masters, who, naturally, would never dream of attempting to forge a painting; and DCI Burgin, the blinkered cop in pursuit of a murderer, who refuses to look further than Fax.

The ending is both satisfying and suitably dramatic, if a tad predictable by the time most of the available suspects have either disappeared or been killed off. If a few loose ends are left dangling and one or two details left unexplained, it didn’t spoil the page-turning quality of the story.

I never did quite work out why a SWAT team was needed to arrest a sleeping man, but hey, it all added to the fun.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Robin Richards. One day, when he was a bored fourteen year old, Robin Richards’ mother thrust a copy of Alistair MacLean’s Puppet on a Chain into his hands with the instructions ‘read that.’
From that day on he decided he would become a crime writer. He has been writing seriously since the 1990s and was able to increase his output from 2008 when he took early retirement from his job as a nursing lecturer at the University of Sheffield. His first book LE-JOG-ed, is an account of his mid-life trek from Land’s End to John O’Groats which won the Beach Book Festival award for general non-fiction in 2015 and was a finalist for three other awards.
The Piltdown Picasso published in 2015 is his first crime/thriller which he plans to follow with the second in this series, Nasty, Brutal and Short also featuring Matthew (Fax) Fairfax, the disgraced forensic psychologist.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment