|Bunderlin by Robert Crompton|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: Martin is an ordinary, everyday bloke and an innocent in a world of gangs, crime and violence. The conduit for his slide of fortunes is the enigmatic Peter Bunderlin. Whether Bunderlin's intentions are good or ill, he's an original in a hauntingly unforgettable story. Robert Crompton popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 310||Date: June 2014|
|External links: Author's website|
As a child Martin had been fascinated and entranced by his neighbour Mrs Bundy's household menagerie. Her son Peter was there too but on the periphery; Martin was just there to visit the animals. In adulthood their paths cross again but this time Peter Bunderlin (as he's now known) isn't so easy to avoid – and Martin's tried! Perhaps if Martin could understand what the heck Peter is up to?
British writer Robert Crompton has been a lab technician, mature student and, latterly, a Methodist Church Minister but there has been one constant in his life of diversification: books. The days of his childhood in the land of paraffin lamps and steam trains and a lovely big forest eventually led to an adulthood which brought the discovery that he can harvest the stories that still live back there. Bunderlin is one of the two stories he published almost simultaneously and it's a very good place to start. Not only is it a very good place, it's also a very British one.
British? Yes, the nationality is important as that's the main reason the book works. Our hero Martin is unassuming and always wants to do the right thing but his urge towards correctness is tempered by a politeness and need not to offend. In this way he's slowly drawn down a slippery path towards elements of Manchester's grubby underworld. (Come to think of it, Martin is a good name – think Martin Freeman and the character is there.)
Even though he's way out of his depth, we love him and empathise strongly. Indeed there may be worse things in the world than the divorce Martin has been through and he's about to find out what they are. We get to know him through a logical and understandable timeline taking us back and forth from Martin now to student Martin and beyond that to Martin the child.
At first Robert's narrative style may seem simple but it's effective, allowing the story and its cast to shine through. And what a cast! From Dirty Maureen the sex shop owner to fish-and-chip-addicted Scobie the gangsters' odd job man these are people we remember and, in the case of a certain interior designer, would avoid if we came across. (It's interesting that she, a supposed 'goodie' in all her middle class creativity and pushiness, comes across as being scarier than many of the 'baddies'.) Despite all this competition, the most memorable character of them all is Bunderlin himself.
This giant of a man has a learning or emotional disability (possibly on the autistic scale) so this is a brave move from Robert but one that pays off. Bunderlin has hidden complexities which keep us guessing his motives and whether we should make him wear a black or white hat. He not only controls Martin's life, he has a hold over the novel in that, when Peter's not around, causes us to await his next appearance with baited breath.
In the end all is revealed as the story moves from Martin's viewpoint to that of Peter and his mother, revealing a family back story with intrigues enough to deserve a novel of its own. The links between past and present, reasoning and motive are clever and unexpected rewarding those of us who have paid attention from the beginning as nothing in the story has been for nothing.
The writing may lack a little fluency in places but that's just lack of experience and doesn't get in the way of the enticing story. Robert's voice is as fresh as it is new, making any of us who have read this look forward to his next foray back to those paraffin lamps, the steam trains and the lovely big forest to see what he returns with.
(A big thank you to the author for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals, we also recommend Robert's debut novel Leaving Gilead. If you're already a fan or if it's the crime side that draws you, we just as strongly suggest The Stolen Ones by Owen Laukkanen.
You can read more about Robert Crompton here.
Robert Crompton was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
You can read more book reviews or buy Bunderlin by Robert Crompton at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Bunderlin by Robert Crompton at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.