No Sale by Patrick Conrad

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No Sale by Patrick Conrad

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: You don't need to know Hollywood's Golden Age to get the best from this thriller. It might help a fair bit, but the reality of this crafty plot is worth exploring.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 312 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
ISBN: 9781904738978

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The first suspect in a wife's murder is always the husband, and so it is with Shelley Cox, but Victor, a film professor, claims it must have been suicide. A picture emerges of a sad, alcoholic woman, who had an almost different identity and personality while out drinking in Antwerp's docklands area. Victor is happy enough to replace her with an enveloping relationship with a student who matches his knowledge and mimics his idols. But still, Shelley was the victim of a crime, and if the police who keep calling on Victor are correct, it could be but one of a series...

This is a book that causes itself a few problems but gets round most to be a more than reasonable read. I can mention first-name specifics and give nothing away, and that is the fact nobody would gather those cold cases together are plot-holes to ignore. But the rest vanishes. At about the quarter-mark it seems to focus on cinephile name-dropping but soon gets back to people. Part one ends, almost half-way, with you thinking the book will hinge around one question, before quickly dropping big incendiaries on that idea.

It's a thriller that's low on pretension - and perhaps character, as even the lead cop gets a nickname, a tart and a favourite restaurant or two and little else, but in subtle ways, it swirls questions, themes and ideas around the reader's head very satisfactorily. Some I can't describe, others I daren't reveal, but they focus on the power of the silver screen, how much cinema plays off real life and vice versa, and where our character comes from when nature is up against the nurture of Hollywood, in both its fictitious stories and factual history.

As its ebb, it can seem a bit loopy, a bit 'meh'. But at its best it bends the realities of its characters, and produces a literary version of a DJ's quickfire scratch cut, sampling copious cinematic sources and details and mixing them together, plundering the old for something new. My least favourite cover of the year disguises a crime novel that doesn't rely on film knowledge to interest - but to us cineastes, it's quite intriguing.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A French thriller I enjoyed recently was Bed of Nails by Antonin Varenne and Sian Reynolds (translator). No Sale says true films noirs focused on people in the cinema, and more movie-based crime can be had with books such as Bloodthirsty by Marshall Karp. We also enjoyed What Remains of Me by A L Gaylin. You might also enjoy The Syndicate by Guy Bolton.

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