Today I am sharing my thoughts on Meantime, the debut novel from Frankie Boyle. Not going to lie – I was drawn to this one largely out of curiosity as much as the story premise. Not known for being exactly shy and retiring in his comedy, I was intrigued to see how his style translated to crime fiction. My thanks to publisher Baskerville for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
Glasgow, 2015. When Valium addict Felix McAveety’s best friend Marina is found murdered in the local park, he goes looking for answers to questions that he quickly forgets. In a haze of uppers, hallucinogens, and diazepam, Felix enlists the help of a brilliant but mercurial GP; a bright young trade unionist; a failing screenwriter; semi-celebrity crime novelist Jane Pickford; and his crisis fuelled downstairs neighbour Donnie.
Their investigation sends them on a bewildering expedition that takes in Scottish radical politics, Artificial Intelligence, cults, secret agents, smugglers and vegan record shops.
Meantime is a picaresque detective story set against the backdrop of post-referendum Scotland. Frankie Boyle’s compelling debut novel is a tale of murder and revenge, and of personal and political loss.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve been putting off writing this review. Not for any bad reason, I’m just not sure I know where to begin. This is perhaps the most unconventional crime thriller (?) I’ve read in quite some time. And that turns out to be a good thing. Kind of bonkers, often funny, sometimes unexpectedly poignant, this is a murder mystery investigation the like of which I have definitely not read before. When your lead character, and part time suspect, is a self confessed stoner, and the very varied group of friends who help him really aren’t much better, you kind of get a hint of where this book is likely to lead. Or so you’d think. This is a Frankie Boyle novel. I guess conventional and expected are really the last things I should be looking for, right?
The story revolves around Felix McAveety, a man who is potentially prime suspect in the murder of his good friend Marina. But Felix has an alibi, of sorts, and as much as the police might like to pin him down for the murder, or potentially any misdemeanour to be fair, it is clear to them, and us as readers, that Felix is as innocent as the day is long. Which is perhaps a bad metaphor for this book seeing as many of Felix’s days are lost in a drug fuelled haze. Told in first person, this is a story which is as confusing as it is entertaining and which is packed with humour. Many Frankie Boyle-esque moments of social commentary, both barbed and not, litter the text, and whilst Felix may seem to be a complete waster, someone who would rather avoid life by sinking a few (dozen) valium, there is an astute mind there. Well hidden, but it is there. Enlisting the help of a retired Detective turned crime- novelist, Felix is determined to solve the mystery of Marina’s murder, not trusting the police to get it right. He may have a point, given what I read.
Now if you’ve ever seen a Frankie Boyle routine or really listened to his very unique and colourful way of describing all manner of things, then you can probably already guess how the storytelling in this book is likely to go. It is probably filled with some of the most colourful and unique descriptions of people and places that I have ever read – a kind of acid trip playing out on the page – and yet it’s surprisingly effective. Sometimes if made me smile, other descriptions resulting in an audible chuckle. A few grimaces too, but then we’re dealing with a lot of addicts here. Not quite on a level of Trainspotting bad, but certainly not the behaviour or decorum you usually expect in crime fiction.
Taking readers from the world of drugs, to artificial intelligence, to conspiracy theory through to politics (Like AI without the I part …), the story is set in the period immediately post independence vote. A lot of political commentary surrounding that, both for and against, but it definitely made for an interesting backdrop given all we now know was to follow. Even being just eight years ago, it gives the book a feeling of nostalgia, almost borderline historical fiction, but it was the perfect backdrop for this particular investigation. Frankie Boyle did a brilliant job of making it feel relevant and of its time, whilst still tapping into many of the arguments that still prevail. And as for the AI angle … well that was beyond a mind trip, the ‘philosophical discussions’ and tangents that the characters go off on often making me wonder if I hadn’t actually consumed a few hallucinogens too.
I think this is a book that will divide critics. If you enjoyed Trainspotting for the madness that it was, and appreciate the intelligence that sits behind some of Frankie Boyle’s more controversial moments, then I think you’ll enjoy it. This is by no means controversial, lets get that clear, but it is quirky. If you’re looking for your everyday amateur detective, you won’t find them in Felix. If you like a character who has the capacity to surprise and whose laid back exterior actually hides a very deep emotional core, then I think you may well bond with him. I couldn’t help but like Felix. He made me smile, sometimes laugh. And yet with a slight twist of perspective, Frankie Boyle managed to infuse into the story moments of poignancy that were so unexpected their impact was more keenly felt and the story all the better for it. I’m intrigued to see where Mr Boyle may lead us next time.
About the Author
rankie Boyle is one of the UK’s premier comedians and writers and is the author of three bestselling non-fiction books including My Shit Life So Far, and Work! Consume! Die! Boyle is also known for his shows New World Order (BBC2), Tramadol Nights (Ch4), Frankie Boyle’s Tour of Scotland (BBC2), and his best selling DVD’s and Netflix Special. Frankie also regularly contributes articles for the broadsheet press. He has topped the podcast charts with the first three volumes of his eight volume Promethiad sequence.