Review: I Predict A Riot by Bateman

February 13, 2008

I have a horrible inability to put down a book I’m more than two-thirds of the way through. When it’s a slim P.G. Wodehouse, that’s not a particular problem. When it’s a 600-page monster like Harry Potter or Bateman’s I Predict A Riot, it does tend to lead to me being up all night reading, unable to sleep no matter how exhausted I am.

I Predict A Riot is great fun, no question. You might think of it as Rebus-lite, if you were so inclined: one of the central characters, “Marsh” Mallow is frequently a less dark, more Belfasty detective and likes his music and whisky (apparently on a more superficial level than Rebus).

It’s an odd book. The copy on the cover is all about mutilated corpses and an untouchable bad guy  yet you get thirty chapters in and it’s still a chuckly love story with Mallow as a minor character, also looking for love more than for a dangerous criminal… and yet you read on.

It’s hard not to like the main characters – Mallow and the ridiculous couple, Margaret and Walter, no matter how foolish and irrational they act. In fact, it’s difficult to hate anyone in the story: the bad guys are largely caricatures, and even the good guys are little more than caricatures with added foibles.

Despite the lack of characterisation, it’s a good read. The plot is admirably convoluted and, in places, utterly daft; in others, it’s so daft as to be plausible – rioting for the sake of rioting, a paramilitary with a twin brother who’s a priest (where on earth could that storyline go?), a mysterious office in the Department of Education… and it all gets neatly wrapped up, which is always a bonus.

Bateman doesn’t have quite the incisiveness of, say, Hiaasen or Brookmyre, or the darkness of Rankin, but he does pull off something  worth reading.

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