Pandora's Gardener by David C Mason
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|Pandora's Gardener by David C Mason|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Missing accountants, runaway gardeners and fiendish evil plots to dominate the world form the backbone of this happily absurd tale of trying to save the world from the bad guys. A good idea, slightly disappointingly executed.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 466||Date: June 2020|
|Publisher: Wen-Chang Books|
John Cranston is a gardener, although what he did before he became a gardener, he claims, is classified. That is just as well because he is about to be caught up in a criminal / spy / terrorist plot, where only he can save the day.
Not literally 'only him'. He has help. There is D.I. Harry Sutherland, approaching retirement and seconded to work in missing persons, the case in hand being the mysterious disappearance of a number of accountants. In this endeavour, he is (dis)ably assisted by the appropriately named Sergeant Bludgeon. Bludgeon has a particularly logical approach to the world, laced with an imagination fed on too many cop shows and spy novels.
Into the mix we have to add a semi-official, covert, squad of ex- / quasi-secret service types who would all appear to be rejects from Dr Who or The Avengers or [insert 1960s / 1970s series of choice] but sport some lethal up-to-date weaponry.
The first thing to say about the book is that I found it hard to get into. It took me a while to realise it was intended to be silly, mainly because there were some references to movies that I didn't get and without knowing the parody, it became a bit weak. Persevere though and it will draw you into a madcap caper surrounding an improbable piece of tech software-cum-wetware that has the potential either to destroy civilisation as we know it or at least make a lot of very bad people very rich. Probably the latter. Hence the need for so many accountants.
The tale is highly derivative, but then lots of this genre are and it can work, especially given the humorous twist. The management-speak angle is well played and caused my only laugh out loud moment.
Once you accept that it's meant to be silly, the ride becomes a lot more enjoyable, and for a large chunk of the book I was happily turning pages, smiling in places, and wanting to know what happened…but at 466 pages it is simply too long. It has the feel of a draft where all of the original jokes have been shoe-horned in, and it would be stronger for some of them being cut. And towards the end, I'm afraid it feels like one of those organ recitals where you keep thinking they're gearing up to a crescendo finish, but then they keep on going.
The unfortunate thing about the last few chapters – and I don't often say this – is that all the loose ends are neatly tied up. Unfortunate because choosing one of the earlier potential (expected!) end points would have neatly wrapped up the current storyline, but left space for a sequel…where maybe some of the cut humour could resurface.
This one just didn't work for me.
For more sleuthing on the less serious side, we can recommend Bryant and May and the Invisible Code by Christopher Fowler
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