The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer review – the detective is out there | Polar

gary Thorn is investigating a serious criminal case in south London involving police corruption, domestic violence, possibly even murder, when he stops in the street to talk to a passing squirrel . He tells the squirrel what he intends to do next and the creature, such as ventriloquist Gary, tries to talk him out of it. “I would think about that decision a little deeper than you obviously have,” he says.

This is how comedian Bob Mortimer writes a crime novel: with squirrel interludes, recurring duck gags and a private detective fond of fancy socks. The latter is an acquaintance of Gary who rushes at him one evening in the pub, leaving behind a USB stick shaped like a corncob and is later pronounced dead under suspicious circumstances. The same evening, Gary is also abandoned by a mysterious young woman with a button nose and severe bangs with whom he tries to flirt over a steak and chips.

Gary is not a real detective. He’s a shy paralegal in a Peckham solicitor’s office who panics at the first sign of danger and only persists with the case because he craves the mysterious fringed woman who turns out to be embroiled in it.

Mortimer, himself a shy Peckham barrister before becoming a comedian, proves adept enough to write mystery novels: the plot has a familiar noirish form, with a potential femme fatale, but there are enough surprises and twists. inversions to make it vibrate.

But it’s the details that really set this book apart. Off the wall doesn’t quite cover it. What other fictional detective would write “big bananas” in lowercase on an architrave in his office to cheer himself up at work? Or assign the names Zak Briefcase and Lengthy Parsnip to a pair of dogs he passes on the street? Fans of Mortimer’s surreal get excited would i lie yours?or his internet sketch show train guy, will not be disappointed. Nor will detective novel enthusiasts, if only they can overcome the talking squirrels.

The Satsuma Complex by Bob Mortimer is published by Gallery Books (£16.99). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at Delivery charges may

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