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on 7 August 2006
I discovered Aberystwyth Mon Amour a couple of years ago in Waterstone's bookshop in Chichester. I laughed so much reading the first page that, having made a particularly public exhibition of myself, my only recourse was to buy the bloody book. I was a postgraduate student at UCW Aberystwyth in the late 80's and Pryce's book is a wonderfully distorted portrait of that pleasant but remote university town, viewed through the prism of a 1940's roman noir. But there's a serious undercurrent too about the folly and the legacy of colonial wars, and the characters are wonderfully named: a lisping thug called Valentine, a gin-soaked dwarf called Pickel and a tart-cum-chanteuse, Myfanwy Montez. Wonderful stuff - someone should film it (Jeremy Northam as Louie Knight?). The sequels, Last Tango in Aberystwyth and The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberyswyth are great too.
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on 8 August 2002
Read this book! I did, taking advice from someone rather more trustworthy than I - Philip Pullman, no less, who was asked by a child at the Hay Festival if he ever read anyone else's books, and replied earnestly, yes, he was reading a great one just now - Aberystwyth Mon Amour.
OK, coming from Mid Wales and knowing all the places helps, but even if you didn't this would be just such an enjoyable read. It combines at least three levels of brilliance: it is a breath-takingly funny spoof on Chandler, or maybe even on Mickey Spillane - it gets pleasantly trashy in places. It is also a spoof on Welsh culture, and the wealth of in-jokes there is amazing. Secondly, its very surreal and black comedy cloak a plot which, dammit, is actually quite exciting - I wanted to know whodunnit! And thirdly, there are moments of real tenderness and insight into the deeper aspects of human emotions - love, sex, war, guilt. Oh, and best of all, a totally accurate and identifiable-with perspective on bastard P.E. teachers, may they all rot in hell.
I completely loved it, and read it in just two sittings. A truly remarkable first novel.
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VINE VOICEon 17 August 2005
Aberystwyth is not as you know (or imagine it). For a start it is run by crime lords; the druids. School boys are going missing and Myfanwy Monetez the star of the local nightclub asks the local private investigator, Louie Knight, to help find her missing cousin.
The language and imagery is great (in how many books can you find corsetry or a tea cosy as clues in solving the mystery), but yet I don't think it quite matches Jasper Fforde. However anyone who likes original quirky books such as Fforde or Pratchett will enjoy this.
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on 14 July 2006
This is the funniest series of books I have read in a long time. The character's names are divine (Herod Jenkins, the PE Teacher was my favourite) and despite it being completely ridiculous, you really do get caught up in the story! It definitely helps if you're Welsh, or know Wales/Welsh people, because everything will just seem that bit funnier to you. I kept phoning my Dad (who still lives in Wales) to tell him the "laugh out loud" bits, but found them so hysterical I could hardly relay them down the phoneline for laughing - he's now borrowing my set of books and finally getting the punchlines that were lost in my fits of giggles. Malcolm Pryce deserves a medal for these - Da iawn! (Very good!)I can't wait for the next installment - "Don't cry for me Aberystwyth" - due out in Spring 2007!
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on 22 February 2003
Malcolm Pryce, self-confessed worst aluminium salesman in the world, appears to have found his true vocation with this stunning pastiche on the hard bitten Raymond Chandler type private eye thrillers of the 40s and 50s. Why can't a private eye operate from above an orthopaedic boot shop in downtown Aberystwyth? Why can't the druids control all legal (and illegal) trade in this quaint seaside town? Why can't a philosopher run an ice cream parlour? All these questions and many more Pryce sets out to answer in this cleverly fashioned and jibe poking homage to pulp fiction.
The plot, it has to be said, remains shallow and implausible throughout. What stands out are the character names - Myfanwy Montez, Giuseppe Bronzini, Herod Jenkins etc. - which locate this novel somewhere between Mario Puzo and Dylan Thomas and the wonderful jokes aimed, not so much at the Welsh, but at our perceived stereotyping of the people and their land. Sadistic schoolteachers are remembered with painstaking and agreeable detail - I myself recall a games teacher of similar evilness as Jenkins. Mine was called Colbourn though and, as far as I am aware, he never sent anyone cross country running in a blizzard.
A rudimentary knowledge of Wales, Aberystwyth, the role of the Welsh in Patagonia, the layout of Lancaster bombers and the value of whelks to the Welsh tourist economy are all desirable assets to the reader approaching this book but are not compulsory. An ability to suspend disbelief, to subscribe to the wildest of conspiracy theories and to laugh uncontrollably at the unlikeliest of incidents, however, are.
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on 16 February 2016
Scandinavia may appear to have the market cornered as far as crime fiction goes but Malcolm Pryce proves that Wales has its own brand to offer. Louie Knight is the only gumshoe working the lean, mean streets of … Aberystwyth. In a town that is being run by druids, Louie Knight might do well to heed the advice of the morally vacant ice cream seller Sospan who warns him against having friends, lest you lose too many days attending their funerals. This is Crime Noir with a hefty dose of pastiche. I have to admit – I was hooked from the very beginning.
With school boys dropping dead left, right and centre, Louie Knight is asked to investigate. And not just asked by anyone, but by Aberystwyth’s most-celebrated nightclub singer Mfanwy Montez herself. Of course, Louie is aware of the risks. His headmaster was the Grand Wizard of the Druids, his PE teacher was Herod Jenkins and Louie’s childhood best friend died after being sent to run around the school field during a snowstorm. Despite the small time crooks, the Bronzinis and the Llewellyns, the people really in charge of what goes on in Aberystwyth are the druids.

Malcolm Pryce’s series reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next books; there is a similar blend of whimsy combined with a genuine mystery. At one point, Louie Knight discovers a scrap of material in the bedroom of one of the victims. Realising it is woollen, he takes it to a forensic knitting expert to be professionally examined. In the background lurk the veterans of the Patagonia War which Louie explains as having been ‘the Welsh Vietnam’. I particularly enjoyed one of the moments of revelation when it transpired that one of the characters was nursing a deep dark secret. They were – horror of horrors – English.

This fictionalised Aberystwyth is a dark and dangerous world; beneath the seaside facade lurks a teeming and seedy world of intrigue. The police are corrupt, prostitutes work the streets dressed in their traditional stovepipe hats and not a great deal else and nobody is to be trusted. Louie and his trusty teenage sidekick Calamity Jane desperately need to find the truth behind the disappearances before it is too late. Pryce evokes the 1920s crime noir aesthetic brilliantly – it’s Raymond Chandler meets the west coast of Wales. This is one of very few novels that I would call truly surreal in its humour. Louie Knight is the traditional hard-drinking P.I. with trust issues but underneath it he is a pleasant sort. I would be surprised if I did not pick up another one of his adventures – this was a high-spirited and quick-witted piece of crime fiction with a very original twist. Fans of Father Ted and Thursday Next are sure to be delighted.
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on 25 April 2016
I was drawn to this as I was looking for inspiration. I am a great fan of the Discworld and have bought a Jasper Fforde book (I have yet to read it) and so it cropped up in my recommendations. I read a sample and was hooked by the beginning - I've been to Aberystwyth and thought the idea of a 40's American detective style as applied to Aberystwyth was quirky and it appealed to my sense of humour. I'm now a third of the way through and actually, it's ok, but I'm not sure I'll be buying any more like this.

Having got a bit bored with the book I've read some of the one and two star reviews and think they are a bit harsh. The quality of the writing is good. Malcolm Pryce clearly knows how to put a sentence together but for some reason this book is not a page turner for me which is a bit of a shame really.
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on 8 December 2004
Right lets keep this brief, we're all busy people!
I read it in once sitting, laughed out loud too much and thoroughly enjoyed the plot. Yes it faded a little towards the end, like most early crime attempts, but I can forgive the author for producing such an enjoyable and light hearted story.
His approach reminds me in many ways of Terry Pratchett, despite not having yet built up the never never land of Ankh Morpork etc, but I'm sure Aberystwyth tourist board won't be too upset just yet.
But here's the real test of quality - I'm off to get the next two novels immediately!
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on 27 May 2001
Brilliant book. Of course it helps if you know the real Aberystwyth and the real Wales, and know Los Angeles from Film Noir. The richness of the allusions is breathtaking. The writing is very clever, as well as being laugh out loud funny. But, at the risk of sounding pretentious, it also has something profound to say about the absurdity and the futility of glamorising colonial warfare - the Patagonian war of '61 and Gwenno Guevara's role in it.
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on 25 January 2005
Great fun - the ridiculous notion of setting a noir(ish) detective story in Aberystwyth (my 'home' town) was enough to keep me amused for most of the book. If the Aberystwyth setting wasn't enough the book has great fun playing with the conventions of the genre and the action moves along at a cracking pace.
An aside: I grew up in Aberystwyth and one of the joys of this book (for me) is the use of lots of local places and landmarks usually with quite complicated Welsh names. I greatly enjoyed it but others may find it off putting.
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