Helen Smith's "Alison Wonderland" already has a strange life--what with her psychic postman--but when she becomes a private detective things get even more bizarre when she meets a man who loves a shig, "the fattest, woolliest animal on earth, the product of a union between a pig and a sheep". Being an investigator isn't all glamour and Alison often has to struggle to hold on to the difference between working in a boring job and being a detective working in a boring job. But at least it's not just the expected, run of the mill sleaze, double-crossing and corruption; there's also secret crayfish fishermen, lemon sweets and, of course, the shig. It's this mammoth animal that lies at the heart of Project Brown Dog--an investigation that Alison leads to uncover sinister animal eugenics being orchestrated in the name of commerce by a company in Weymouth.
This is the case that lends Alison Wonderland narrative drive, although Helen Smith's tentative, exploratory style sits uncomfortably within the adventure story set-up. Smith's strength comes to the fore when she's drifting, observing the incidentals of life; "the comforting smells like dog's paws when they wake up from a long sleep" and the rustling of voracious Japanese knotweed as it invades the pavements of Brixton. There's even an intricate Venn diagram sketched to ponder the sagging skin and drooping breasts on show at Tooting Bec Lido. It's this clean, seemingly effortless voice that gives Alison Wonderland an impressive edge and will make her second novel one worth watching out for. --Jane Honey
Only occasionally does a piece of fiction leap out and demand immediate cult status. Alison Wonderland is one... Smith is at the very least a minor phenomenon. The Times
Made me sigh and throw it to the floor in a fit of envious pique. Julie Burchill, Guardian
Smith is gin-and-tonic funny. Booklist
This is a story that can be devoured whole or nibbled in small bites, but is guaranteed to brighten your day. Morning Star
A fantastical Thelma and Louise meets Agatha Christie adventure story. The dialogue is smart and the deadpan humour is perfectly judged. The List
I loved it. She's a very funny writer indeed, in a pleasingly deadpan way, and her heroine's misadventures have the comicality, the freshness and the bizarre excitements of a TinTin story for grown-ups. Jeremy Lewis, Editor, The Literary Review.