Mary’s Prayer

I finished "Mary’s Prayer" by Martyn Waites the other night. It isn’t a new book: I read it becuase his latest is out in paperback, and has received good reviews. Being neurotic about series, I read MW’s first book first (out of print, but obtained from a typically lovely seller via Amazon) , but I now believe that it is not part of the same series as his latest.

Mary’s Prayer is designed to be read at a single sitting. Pulp fiction pure and simple. Almost entirely plot-based, with clunky, cliched prose, and unlikely coincidences to move it all along. In a nutshell, a jaded (natch) journalist, whose family has been killed becuase of previous investigations, has gone to the dogs, is sent by chain-smoking (natch) editor to Newcastle upon Tyne to cover funeral of old schoolmate-turned-gangster. The story: "chance" meeting with old girlfriend (OK will stop writing "natch") leads to hero being caught up in web of politics, drugs, murder, corrupt local magnate, etc. Gratuitous violence; brief interlude of sex (this is the worst written part of the book); previously hostile police inspector now goes along with everything hero says; denoument; coda.

Waites does not keep all the plotlines together well, the murder being investigated gets lost in the confusion, and towards the end there is a risible page where the previously laconic hero blurts out a page-long speech without preamble, putting everything together far and away beyond anything the reader could have known about (the unmasking is also full of holes and almost everyone is revealed to have had no motivation for previous actions). It was very easy to read, though, one of those books you realise you have read without really noticing that you have read it.

I guess I will give Waites’ latest book (whose name I temporarily forget) a go, partly because I have bought it, and partly because four or five books come between Mary’s Prayer and the latest, so he may have found his own stride rather than writing derivative pastiche. But it will be his last chance with me.