The Happy Ending by David Stokes
|The Happy Ending by David Stokes|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: A light-reading tale of a 97-year-old vigilante on the trail of modern day slavers. Hard to categorise but ultimately an entertaining enough read.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 288||Date: September 2017|
Harry Pigeon is 97 years old. He's a bit shakey on his pins, can't move far without his walking frame, has been known to have a fall or two – so makes sure he has his panic button with him – but still he's managing well enough at home. Mentally he's all there, even if he does have these conversations with his wife, who's been dead the last 6 years. There's a point when 'doing ok' stops being quite so ok, a point when there's clearly no purpose left. No-one comes, even the paramedics seem to have shunted you to the bottom of the list, and well, it's all becoming just a bit too undignified. To be honest, when he found the morphine Betty'd been stock-piling against the day her own illness got too much for her but never used as it turned out, Harry was on the point of using it himself.
Then a car crashed into his gates in the middle of the night: a very expensive car, being driven by an unlikely young Filipino girl. Suddenly, life has a purpose…probably just a short-lived one – get her inside and warm and safe until the morning. But it turns out to be much more than that. Bituin is an employee of a very rich, very influential man…but 'employee' is a word that covers a multitude of sins…and 97 year old Harry Pigeon is about to be drawn into the world of sex slavery and people trafficking.
I'm really not sure what to make of this book. It is such a mixed bag. The story it tells is worth the telling. The real-world data is accurate and the trafficking angle, in its ease of perpetration and low-detection (even lower conviction) rate, is sadly believable. Unfortunately a lot of that aspect, which should colour and flavour the story-telling in unease and discomfort, is blandly layered on. It's all a bit too 'worthy' in parts.
The girls (a second abscondee soon joins Harry and Bituin on the run) are cyphers rather than people. We have back-stories for them, but the persona remain superficial and un-rooted. Perhaps that's deliberate.
Then there's the style. I spent much of the book thinking the whole thing was just too naïve. The story-telling was simplistic. Harry was stuck somewhere in the 1970s (when he wasn't reminiscing about the war – which for my generation and above always means the Second World War) – he has no idea about Satnavs and computers, which kind of works, but he is also somewhat shocked to hear how these girls have been treated and to discover what goes on in a pole-dancing club, which really doesn't. Part of the problem is that once the action kicks off, it becomes very much a New Tricks kind of romp (and none the worse for that) which has you feeling that our hero is maybe early seventies rather than late nineties, so Harry's insouciance just doesn't feel right.
On the other hand, on the occasions that the age thing really kicks in hard, it does work – of course the telling of the story would be this simplistic told by a man of this age and that generation. The first-person approach makes the 'voice' appropriate…and the dim-witted Harry does blunder into places he'd really be better off not knowing about…dragging nephews or are they great-nephews along with him. Of course having relatives in the police and the law and with unknown links to the Triads is par for the course in this kind of story…stretches the credibility…but makes the plot work.
The plot. For everything that's wrong with this book, the plot is what holds it together. The slavery back-drop is the only thing about it that is remotely plausible, everything else is too femmer for words. But, there's many a successful series built on worse. It we slot the whole thing into the 'cosy crime' bracket, if we take it with a pinch of salt and a dose of humour (which sits quietly unimposing in the corners and could be played up more) then it actually works. It's an easy read and it it keep me turning the pages wanting to know what would happen next. It is a slight and slightly silly thing – but an entertaining one. For all its dark subject matter, I think playing it for more of the laughs might have worked better.
For more geriatric crime-fighting we heartily recommend the Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler Christopher Fowler
You can read more book reviews or buy The Happy Ending by David Stokes at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Happy Ending by David Stokes at Amazon.com.
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