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  • Writer's pictureIan Ayris

A MINT CONDITION CORPSE by Duncan MacMaster - a review

The Blurb

Batman schmatman, there's a new hero in town and he's kinda dorky...

Kirby Baxter went to Omnicon for the cosplay, the comics and the collectibles. 

No-one was supposed to get murdered.

Get ready for a whole new kind of crime novel. The Dork Knights are rising and Kirby Baxter and his friends are putting the nerd firmly into noir. 

Its all fun and costume changes at OmniCon until schlock horror superstar Erica Glass turns up dead. Fresh from a mysterious adventure in Lichtenstein Kirby Baxter soon finds himself up to his geeky neck in a deadly murder mystery.

Kirby must deploy his unique skills of deduction and detection before the body count rises and ruins OmniCon for everyone. 

The First Paragraph

'Even after two years, travelling first class still felt alien to KIrby Baxter. He wasn't complaining; it just felt strange walking off a trans-Atlantic flight and not feeling like he'd spent the long hours wedged between a three hundred pound block of ancient cheese, and a gorilla that had recently run amok at the perfume counter of a discount store. Kirby was surprisingly free of the cramps, and that pins and needles feeling that he normally associated with long flights. He even scored some much needed sleep over the Atlantic somewhere between Iceland and Nova Scotia, leaving him fairly awake and coherent when he arrived in Toronto.'

The Review

And therein, it all begins.

A novel of such rollicking good fun, of dialogue so funny and so snappy, of a plot so tight, I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it two solid reading days later.

Set at a comic book convention, A MINT CONDITION CORPSE follows Kirby Baxter - comic book artist and reluctant consulting detective extraordinaire - in his quest to solve the murder of an actress at the convention.

A whole cast of characters are under suspicion, all brilliantly - and knowingly - drawn by MacMaster. I say knowingly as throughout the novel there is more than a nod and a wink to the comic book industry, detective shows of the eighties and most of all - everyone's favourite - Scooby Doo. And what is so magnificently achieved is that all the characters - like the cover - are so vibrant and so colourful, yet they never manage to become a cliche of themselves.

I was quite a way into the book before I noticed not much had actually happened. And that speaks volumes for the quality of MacMaster's writing. I was happy just to hang around with Kirby and his odd retinue - Mitch the inappropriate sidekick, Gustav the mute man-mountain of a bodyguard and Molly - whose wise-cracking humour matches anything Mitch can come up with. All of these are a brilliant foil for, not only each other, but for Kirby's Sherlock Holmes/Lord Peter Wimsey persona.

By the time the murder happens, I felt such an established part of the gang, I rattled through the remainder of the book following solidly in Kirby's footsteps, escaping exploding buildings, interrogating the various suspects and putting all the clues together to solve the mystery. And you know that bit where you get to towards the end of a book and you're hoping the writer isn't taking it in the obvious direction, and instead you're hoping that thing in the back of your head saying 'but if he does this, what a brilliant book that would be?' And when it turns out to be that brilliant book, you just sit back and admire how on earth he did it?

Well, A MINT CONDITION CORPSE is that book.

And that is the outstanding feature of this book. Not only is it a crazy mix of Scooby Doo, Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Jeeves and Wooster, Spike Milligan and a million other elements, all told in a Chandler-esque wise-cracking style. But at the heart of it, at the very heart of it, is an utterly brilliant murder mystery.

I have never read a book that is so ALIVE.

A truly fantastic read.

A MINT CONDITION CORPSE is available direct from Fahrenheit Press in Paperback and Kindle versions. Note: If you buy the Paperback version, you get the Kindle version absolutely free.

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