Renee at It’s Book Talk began Throwback Thursday as a way to share some old favourites or books that you’re finally getting around to reading that were published months or years ago.
This week, my Throwback Thursday ‘old favourite’ is a darkly comic murder mystery that I’ve read two or three times, Past Mortem by Ben Elton.
With old friends like these, who needs enemies? It’s a question mild mannered detective Edward Newson is forced to ask himself when, in romantic desperation, he logs on to the Friends Reunited website in search of the girlfriends of his youth. Newson is not the only member of the Class of take back ’88 who has been raking over the ashes of the past. As his old class begins to reassemble in cyberspace, the years slip away and old feuds and passions burn hot once more. Meanwhile, back in the present, Newson’s life is no less complicated. He is secretly in love with Natasha, his lovely but very attached sergeant, and failing comprehensively to solve a series of baffling and peculiarly gruesome murders. A school reunion is planned and as history begins to repeat itself, the past crashes headlong into the present. Neither will ever be the same again.
I have enjoyed a lot of Ben Elton’s comic books over the years and this is one of my favourites. Published in 2004, before Facebook was so widespread, Past Mortem was inspired by the then-ubiquitous Friends Reunited, which had been launched in the year 2000.
First of all, I love the name (obviously a pun on Post Mortem!) Secondly, I love the cover: Ben Elton’s name in school-tie colours plus the book’s title and main image utilising the game Hangman as played on a blackboard, hinting at the book’s dark and deadly – albeit hilarious – school-related themes, similar to the cover of this year’s excellent The Chalk Man.
The plot follows hapless police detective Edward Newson as he investigates a series of gory murders whilst also trying to navigate the personal politics of his forthcoming school reunion. It is typical Ben Elton: funny, dark and thought-provoking. The mystery itself is not particularly challenging, but that doesn’t really matter because it is the journey through the story that is the main attraction.
The story includes some particularly grim and amusingly inventive murders, like those more recently seen in Christopher Brookmyre’s A Snowball in Hell, J.S. (James) Carol’s The Killing Game, Daniel Cole’s Ragdoll and Richard Parker’s Follow You. It’s also got a very explicit and eye-opening sex scene so perhaps this is not a book for the faint-hearted!
However, for those with strong stomachs, this is highly recommended!!