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The Cheshire Ring [Hardcover]

John Oliver
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

25 Nov 2010
A respectable elderly man sets off on a leisurely narrowboat holiday with his wife, son and daughter-in-law. But little do they know that the proceeds of the bank robbery have been stashed in their boat, Colette. The gang hire a boat and give chase to their unwitting target. MI5 are hot on their heels - except they are on a completely different case. Mistaken identity and repeated bungles on the part of MI5 and the gang add to the confusion.

The pursuit takes them around the scenic Cheshire Ring canal system. Along the way, all these inexperienced boatmen have to contend with scores of locks, with child vandals, and unhelpful gongoozlers. They run aground, and get stuck in locks. A dead body appears. And disappears. The police are baffled. Arrests are made, and then overridden by higher authorities.

A glamorous blonde adds spice to the proceedings and gets to know several of the characters rather well. Will the family notice the mayhem around them? Will the gang get the money back? Will Ern ever realise his dream of running a chip shop?

Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Book Guild Publishing (25 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846244986
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846244988
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,562,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

John Oliver was born in Shrewsbury in 1929. He is a retired insurance claims handler and has been a beekeeper for 50 years, as well as a honey judge. He is the published author of several plays and musicals, and lives in Shrewsbury.

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4.0 out of 5 stars The Cheshire Ring 4 May 2011
The Cheshire Ring is playwright John Oliver's first novel, a farcical caper which sees a husband and wife, son and daughter-in-law take a canal trip around the circuit, "the Cheshire ring." They don't know it, but the money from a bank robbery is hidden onboard their narrow boat, Collette, placed there by robbers to collect later. The robbers are naturally perturbed when the boat starts cruising, and in fear of losing their ill-gotten gains, they hire their own boat and give chase - albeit very slowly. Before long, M15 have joined the 10 m.p.h pursuit, although they're on a different case altogether.

The tone is, unsurprisingly for a comic novel, very light, and the writer reveals his play-writing background with a narrative heavy on dialogue with little description. In this respect, it is akin to a stage-play on a bigger scale. What is unusual, however, is the intermittent use of third and first person structure, which is mildly disorientating at first until you get used to it. An interesting device, but perhaps the novel would have been better served had it remained faithful to one or the other.

Like its location, The Cheshire Ring is quintessentially English, and is reminiscent of P.G Wodehouse (especially his stand-alone caper novels such as `Do Butlers Burgle Banks' and `Sam the Sudden') and also Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder books, but - I'm pleased to say - it doesn't contain the unremitting vulgarity of a Tom Sharpe. The more conventional set-pieces - such as when the numerous boatmen deal with vandals, fellow-cruisers, locks and such like - wouldn't have been out of place in a middle-class sitcom, or even a politer Carry On film.

It is a pleasant change to read a British book which is not only unpretentious, but so at ease with its Anglican setting, with its concomitant colloquialisms and culture (one of the characters, Ern, dreams of owning a chip shop), and doesn't have one eye beadily focused on the Atlantic. Try it.
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