on 4 August 2005
I always pick 2 novels to take on my annual 2 week holiday and read one in each week ( I take my time). So this year I picked Past Mortem (along with You Are Here by Steve Horsfall). I have never read a book by Ben Elton before, but this blew me away - it's funny, touching and risque with a great comment on how the past catches us all up at some point ( centred in this case around the Friends Reunited phenomenom). The whodunnit leaves you guessing to the end. I read it in 2 days ( and You Are Here in 3). I'll need to buy more books next year!!!
This is the book which started me reading Ben Elton again. My only previous experience of his novels had been "Gridlock" and "Stark" , which both had their moments, but were, to my mind, neither quite one thing nor the other. I was taken aback by the difference in the quality of writing between those two early novels, and this latest one. This is a one sitting book.
If you've read "Dead Famous" then its probably helpful if I tell you that "Past Mortem " does for the internet school reunion (a la Friends Reunited) phenomenon what "Dead Famous" did for the "Big Brother" phenomenon. Except that there's more murders in this, and they are far more inventive and gruesome. This is not a criticism.The different methods of the murders are essential to the narrative.
Without giving away too much of the plot, several rather horrible people are murdered. There seems to be nothing linking them, except that they have all been mentioned in messages on the Friends Reunited website.
I've already mentioned "Dead Famous" . One important difference in this story is that you are drawn far more into all the characters than in the earlier book. To be honest, I couldn't really have cared less about the three investigating detectives in the earlier novel. This is not true in "Past Mortem". All of the characters hold your interest. There is nothing slack or wasted here.
One word of warning. Of the several others of Elton's novels which I have read, I would say that , in terms of matters sexual, they are earthy, but not worryingly explicit. There is one scene in "Past Mortem" which is extremely graphic in its depiction of a sado masochistic sexual encounter. Actually its rather shocking, and quite funny at the same time, and it is certainly justified in terms of the development of the depiction of the two characters involved. But don't say that you haven't been warned.
So, this is, if anything, a darker Ben Elton - a less jokey ( although still very funny at times ) Ben Elton. I'm hooked.
"Past Mortem" is Ben Elton's ninth novel which was first published back in 2004. Described on the sleeve as a "heart-stopping thriller and a killer comic romance", having been written by the comedian Ben Elton, you were sure to have a fair amount of comedy within the book.
The novel reads like a black comedy version of a Shaun Hutson thriller novel, being very easy to read, delivering short fast paced chapters that end on miniature cliff hangers throughout the book. The novel follows the life of detective Edward Newson as he tries to capture a serial killer who is murdering bullies in inventive and disturbing ways. The storyline is somewhat similar to David Fincher's film Seven, yet at the same time so very far removed.
The likeable character of Newson, who was obviously based on Elton himself, keeps the novel alive with his comical view on the world, even in the face of such difficult circumstances. The running subplot of Newson's secret crush on one of his fellow colleagues and his resulting non-existent love life, makes the character so much more loveable.
The novel is slightly let down by the obvious and predictable outcome of who the killer is, which becomes apparent from quite early on. This obviously was not Elton's intention, which ruins the `twist-ending' as you will see it coming from a mile away. Still, the book is a thoroughly enjoyable read due to the well written nature of the book, and for a bit of light hearted reading, you can't go wrong with it.
on 1 November 2004
As a murder mystery this book is very good - easily ranking up there with most of the consumer crime novels on the shelves today. No, it isn't a comedy, but I don't think that Elton was trying to write one this time. But it is a great analysis of the long and short term effects of bullying, and it did raise a chuckle from me on occasion. This isn't a book for the faint of heart. Most of the murder scenes are described in very graphic detail but you'll realise as the story develops that this is necessary, as it is the methods of killing that becomes the focus of the plot. Yes, I did guess who the killer was about two thirds of the way through, but this is not so important because I was interested in how the book's hero, the "short-arsed ginger minger", Detective Inspector Ed Newson, would figure it out and catch the bad guy. I can highly recommend this book, but don't expect a laugh-a-minute whodunnit like Dead Famous. This is more along the lines of the social commentary of High Society and Elton demonstrates an increasingly mature style.
on 25 February 2006
A superb read, I could not put the book down, reading right through the night. I have tried to analyse why and how Ben Elton’s style of writing is so captivating, but I can’t tell you. By half way through the book, I had a good idea who the villain was, but there was always an element of doubt, which kept me burning the midnight oil.
There is a great interweaving of different story lines, the crimes with gruesome details, a love story, interesting characters and the sex. The sex – my father used to say
“You youngsters think you invented sex”
I’m now at the same age my fathers was when he made these remarks, and it’s true, youth must have invented sex, there are things in this book I had never dreamt of; but then again, I have lead a very sheltered life.
A truly enjoyable read.
on 5 January 2006
This book starts with a policeman investigating a nasty and rather odd murder while also reminiscing about his schooldays and deciding to sign up on Friends Reunited. Typical Ben Elton fare, really, although much of the aggressive political manner of writing has been toned down.
As the book progresses we learn about several more murders, while our policeman attends a school reunion that quickly makes his private life very complicated.
Ben Elton's writing is entertaining, with the usual mix of quirky details and characters, and the plot is interesting enough - although, as mentioned in other reviews, there's not much mystery in the whodunnit.
It's worth warning, though, that there is a graphic sex scene and that although we don't see the violence, the details of the murders are nasty. I've read several of Ben Elton's books and both the sex and the murders are stronger in this than in any of the others I've read.
Overall, this is a pretty enjoyable book. It's easy to read, the central character is likable and interesting, and the plot moves along at a nice speed. It doesn't really challenge, but it's good entertainment.
on 11 March 2015
I came to Ben Elton's novels rather late in the day so after I read the brilliant and funny 'High Society' I went in search of other Elton gems. I found one. Ben Elton has written a murder mystery that's almost too easy to read until you encounter the ghastly and grim coupled to the highly inventive talents of a murderer who isn't so much cold-blooded as adroitly inhuman. The story brilliantly absorbs the life, times and history of the self-deprecating, short and ginger Detective Inspector Edward Newson who heads-up a murder team tasked with unravelling what is, a bizarre series of slaughters (the word is appropriate) which you the reader will want to forget almost as much as you want to read on. Marry these events to a reunion of old school `chums,' and, because it's Ben Elton, there is humour - here the black variety that occasionally cuts, but not always so. Add to everything else an inclusion of professional petty prejudices and high-handed hates and this story ticks over nicely. It's a fast but well-paced ripping crime yarn that perhaps warns us all to be very careful about allowing our past to intrude on our present. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ben Elton can certainly write as well as he does stand-up comedy, although I do admit he probably remains something of an acquired taste to some of us. I'd like to get around to reading all his novels.
on 24 June 2005
I've just read my first Ben Elton book, Past Mortem. Personally, I can't stand the man himself, I'd rather walk around Dewsbury with a nail in my shoe than listen to his inane drivel. However, the book was passed onto me by a departing holidaymaker (who was in his 80's) and I thought "what the hell".
I was hooked straight away! It is a jolly good read and very clever storyline. I would recommend it to anyone. I read it in two days, much to the annoyance of my partner who was sick of looking at the top of my head and only receiving answering grunts to his questions.
Don't be put off it you don't like Ben Elton, this is an excellent book and well work getting off the shelf.
on 24 June 2007
Ben Elton is rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors, by quite simply writing highly, highly entertaining material such as this. I have never been an avid reader, but I bought this book on the off-chance that it might be amusing. And it was.
The storyline itself revolves around a very "Seven"-esque murder and the subsequent investigation. This is a very compelling read that kept me up for several nights, unable to put it down until the very end.
A very well thought-out plot, loads out-loud guffaws (the kind that get people staring at you on the bus) and many of those oh-so-poignant social observations that Elton is famous for; all the while actually managing to tackle a serious social problem without detracting from the importance of it.
I've never been over-enamoured with Ben Elton as a comedian, but he sure knows how to write!
on 26 October 2004
Being a big Ben Elton-fan, I got this one from the store on its first day. I was severely dissappointed, and compared to Ben Eltons usually high standards, then this falls several levels below expectations. My critism is:
1) Not even an attempt at being funny. Ben Eltons strength has been the mutual support of a gripping plot and a good sense of humour. In this one, he lets the plot carry the book on its own, which makes my point no. 2 even sadder.
2) The plot is his worst yet. This is the first Elton-book, where I felt 100% confident, that I have guessed what his "suprising twist at the end" would be. Maybe it is because I know Eltons formula by now, but this one did not deliver the shocker at the end, that I as an Elton-fan is used to.
It gets the three stars for gut-wrenching descriptions of murder-scenes and bullying, and for believeable characters. On a Ben Elton-scale, Past Mortem would only get a single star.