Book, screen, stage, festival & event reviews.
My apologies for this very late post, but I am now continuing with the Welsh theme.
At the Faber Crime Party last year, I met Mike Ripley, he of the wickedly funny Shotsmag Gossip Column and a series of award-winning and highly-regarded comic crime novels centring on Fitzroy Angel McLean. "Try out Angel on the Inside", said Mike, "It has my take on the Welsh". Having had such a laugh talking to him that evening, I did. The tip-off came at a good time too, as I lost my beloved cat, Oscar, only a couple of weeks later. I needed to find the lighter side of life again and I found that in Angel on the Inside, where I also learned to "Laugh Out Loud" (LOL).
When reading Angel on the Inside, I suddenly remembered that back in 2003, Peter Guttridge at The Observer had said this to say, amongst other things, in his review of the novel: "The Welsh Tourist Board won't be amused but I loved Ripley's combination of cynical humour and genuine warmth for all his characters. More please." And there is a genuine warmth for all concerned, including the Welsh characters, perfectly depicted, perfectly named. Ripley could not have written this without enjoying the various times he has spent in Wales and applying his insatiable curiosity to all that goes on around him. Having worked for a multitiude of international companies in my time, I know that our mainland European neighbours envy the Brits' ability to laugh at themselves; I once had more than one German admit that to me. As for "insatiable curiosity", this leads to extensive knowledge of all sorts of odd facts which, in turn, leads to a remarkable library to be sourced for great gags. And boy oh boy, we do have it here, especially for Wales. So, who is Angel and what is Angel on the Inside all about?
Angel's partner Amy, a successful designer, has been stalked by someone and he turns out to be an ex-husband that Angel never knew of, recently released from jail. As Amy goes unacceptably AWOL for a while, the wheels are set in motion for an escapade in which Angel becomes embroiled in the activities of other criminals; the univited attention of gangsters (mainly Welsh, as Amy's ex-hubby has south Wales roots); the investigations of an all female private eye agency in London; his own investigation into his socially-wanting cat Springsteen's injuries (and later revenge) after an unofficial visit to the flat he no longer occupies.
Because the ex-hubby turned the focus on Angel and Amy, it is up to Angel to sort out the mess that ensues when the ex-hubby's "associates" believe that Angel has something he doesn't. Angel needs to prove he doesn't and does not stop short of resolving life-threatening or financially-threatening matters for all.
The novel has a pace you'd expect from the best comic crime – motorway speed. The gags are frequent and often "laugh out loud". I learned more about the different types of London taxi and the operations of The London Eye than I ever imagined possible – all with gags. The characters are as sound and as fulfilling as Spotted Dick puddings. Angel is an ever so endearing wide-boy with a great sense of humour and, a "back to basics" set of morals on times - the tale is told from his point of view; whereas Amy has a sharp tongue to keep Angel in check – the sort that lends itself to "Be afraid, be very afraid, my love" and the risk of upsetting the whole week of the London Fashion Show, let alone an apple cart in central London or the best upside-down apple tart in Amy's life.
As for the Welsh and the Welsh setting, Angel on the Inside traverses Wales from its capital in Cardiff to the western reaches of Cardiganshire. Impressively, this Mr Ripley knows the best and most luxurious places to stay in the newly developed Cardiff Bay area; along with where the "crachach" live in the villages in the Vale of Glamorgan; and, along with how things are when you head west of Carmarthen (odd). Ooh, it's all baking in west Wales; that Rachel Allen from Ireland should explore the area.
Angel on the Inside is expertly delivered with humour and it didn't stop there, I quickly moved on to the next in the series, with Angel in the House. Lovely humour and lovely crime. You simply have to read it!
Mike has a great fan, formerly of the south east of England and now residing in north Wales. You can do no better than to check out her site for information on the novels, including her view of them, plus a lot of background.