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Book review: <i>Dirty Tricks</i> by Michael Dibdin



As I have stated unequivocally in many a previous review, I do love British novels. The crime thriller ones have a sort of depth and an element of class to them that is undiscovered to all but the best of American authors. Maybe it’s because mysteries seem like things that should happen in the rain and fog and gloom and these things all happen naturally in the United Kingdom. I think it’s also that sly, dry wit that British authors seem born with. That ability to make fun of oneself and the world. Australians have it too, but the Americans are just all a bit too serious. With these profound thoughts in mind, Dirty Tricks is no exception to an excellent display of British wit, and once again proves the rule—those Brits know what they’re on about when they write a good suspense yarn.

The story

The protagonist (who remains nameless) finds himself on the wrong side of forty, riding a bicycle to and from his student-style sharehouse, to and from his student-style job teaching English. It was a good life in Latin America, but it’s not quite the same back in England where everyone else in his class is wealthy and settled. In the course of his duties he finds himself invited to dinner by his boss’s accounts man, Dennis Parsons. Who has a big house, an expensive car and a trashy wife who our protagonist finds himself having an affair with shortly after. One thing leads to another and, next thing you know, there is death, misunderstanding, pregnancy, riches, the upper-classes, and a hitman named Garcia, all combined in a diabolically humourous and very British series of coincidences, into which the protagonist is inexorably drawn. As the plot thickens, so does your desire to read on.

The style

The book is written in the first person, as a court statement, and is addressed specifically to a reader who is Latin American. This is made evident with subtlety and humour, and also allows the protagonist to make witty observations about British culture for the benefit of the non-British reader. The character is at all times a brilliantly human combination of self-depreciating honesty and the assumption of class superiority. He also approaches all the events that occur to him with such assurance that the reader can’t help but sympathise with him, even when his behaviour is dubious. His rationalisations are such that the reader is left thinking “Yes, that was reasonable behaviour!”. Dirty Tricks is excellently written, with good plot twists, a suitable style, and a sense of fun that keeps you reading and disappoints you when it’s all over. The quote on the front from the New York Times really sums it up:

“Superb... It’s... just like Nabokov. Only fun”

Who is this book for?

Anybody looking for an easy, quality, good time read. This would be an excellent holiday book, something to read in your leisure time uninterrupted and all at once.

In short

Title: Dirty Tricks
Author: Michael Dibdin
Publisher: First Vintage Crime/Black Lizard
ISBN: 0375700099
Year published: 1991
Pages: 241
Genre(s): Crime fiction
Review Type: