Get Poor Slow, David Free
There were so many reasons I wanted to love GET POOR SLOW. The concept of the most hated book reviewer in Australia being the only suspect in a murder, right down to the belly full of bourbon and the curdled dreams of literary greatness sounds like great fun. And I did so like the opening lines:
I'm starting to doubt this thing will end soon. Last night one of them came up to the house. I was inside, doing what I do these days when it gets dark. No lights on, no book, no TV, no sounds, just a glass in my fist with not much left in it.
There is so much portent in the opening chapters of this novel, it drips with potential, until it doesn't. Which comes surprisingly quickly given the excellent commencement.
The writing is wonderful, it's slightly ironic, tongue in cheek with the story told from Ray's own point of view, almost a riff on the private investigator's of old. Ray's asides are as eloquent and nasty as his reviews, he's sarcastic and unflinching, and yet, not too far in, I was bored witless. Perhaps it's the coyness of the plot, which doesn't really have a lot to be coy about. Perhaps it was the general thinning of the whole reason for the tale - it's hard to spin bittered and twisted done wrong bloke for too long before it all gets a bit ho hum. Perhaps it was the sneaking suspicion that Ray Saint ain't no Rake no matter how hard he tried to be. There just wasn't quite enough bite to the humour, quite enough rakishness overall, certainly never quite the twinkle in the eye that you suspect a Rake like character needs to be forgiven over and over again. Maybe it was because at one point Saint started to feel like his favourite thing was him - it all got very self-indulgent and at that point the thinness of the overall plot really struggled for relevance in the light of the somewhat lukewarm personal character assassination.
Whatever the reasons, about half the way into GET POOR SLOW, I suddenly found myself easily distracted by the dishes, or the dusting, or anything really. Which is never a good sign.
By forty you're meant to have the face you deserve. I got the face early. It took me a while to earn it. I believe I am finally there.
Ray Saint is in trouble. A young woman is dead and he was the last person to see her alive. No one is impressed by his excuses: Ray, you see, is the most hated book reviewer in Australia - a hatchet man with a belly full of bourbon and curdled dreams of literary greatness. Now he will need all of his acid-tongued wit and even some moments of lucidity if he is to discover who murdered the beautiful publishing assistant who got so far beneath his skin.
As a battered and bloodied Ray investigates more deeply, he is obliged to face the truth: he can't be entirely sure that he isn't the killer.