Princess Tina, Dick Tracy, and Daniel Beckett: Review of ‘Kiss me When I’m Dead’ by Dominic Piper
When I was a young girl, I read Princess Tina comics weekly. What can I say? I still look at those beautiful covers and sigh! I loved them!
I never had a brother, and for the few years my father lived with us, I never saw him anywhere near a comic. I think I was convinced that comics were for girls only.
Many years later, although Madonna taught me that Dick Tracy had a square jaw, a handsome face, and a gun in his hand, and I loved the album, I never saw the film, and still wasn’t interested in ‘boys’’ comics.
I would never have imagined that yesterday I’d be reading, and enjoying a book about a ‘larger than life’, private detective called Daniel Beckett in a debut novel written by Dominic Piper, Kiss Me When I’m Dead.
I have already written about why writers should read beyond our comfort zone in another post, what writers should read, so for all those reasons, yesterday I decided to download a book which was something I wouldn’t normally read and give it a go, not really expecting to even finish it, because it’s not my type of book.
This is one of the (many) times I just love to be proved wrong.
I surprised myself by reading non-stop (except a brief break for lunch) and finishing it at 1.30 am. Fortunately it was Sunday, otherwise I don’t know how I would have got through the day without reading…
It’s a contemporary detective novel narrated in the first person stream-of-consciousness style, by witty and authentic (almost primal) Daniel Beckett, in the classic style of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.
The language flows on its own as the reader is literally immersed into Beckett’s mind. I thought it was fun, as this type of mind is somewhere I’ve never been.
There were times I thought I was reading a comic (yes, one of those comics I never read as a child!) because the characters were larger than life, but hey, this is a novel, not a detective manual, isn’t it?
It kept me turning the pages and concerned about what was going to happen in an involved but detached way, as if I were watching a film. It was easy to imagine I was there due to the vivid and sensual descriptions. Is all this ‘people smelling’ a detective thing? In any case, it adds to the authenticity of the reading experience. I’ll be going to a department store to get a whiff of Mitsouku by Guerlain asap.
One of the most successful aspects of characterization in this novel is that all characters, primary and secondary, are important to the narrator. Everyone has a distinctive smell and characteristic, and that adds to the suspense, because one never knows who is going to become a major player in the action.
Beckett himself is a mystery. In spite of narrating the whole story, we learn very little about his past, and a character like him must have an eventful history, but he’s obsessively secretive which makes him even more interesting. There will no doubt be prequels and sequels where we will find out more (please, Mr.Piper!).
Another major achievement is that one of the main characters in the novel is the setting itself: London. We are immersed in this unique city, where the action takes place, mostly central and south, my own favourite parts.
Every single word, line, paragraph, page, and chapter moves the story on, or tells us something about Beckett and his co-stars. Nothing is wasted. This keeps the reader alert, just as Beckett is, throughout.
There is a lot of action and sex, but it’s not graphically told, which I was grateful for. Every scene that is in the novel has to be there, and that’s considerate of Piper, because the readers’ time is precious.
I suppose Princess Tina is still looking for her ideal man, and Beckett comes pretty close. Is that why he seems so unreal at times?
Finally, the plot is full of twists and turns. Some you may have suspected, and others you definitely won’t. You’ll never know how perfect the title of the novel is until you read the last chapter.
It’s great entertainment, exciting, fun, and I got an interesting peek at a male mind through male eyes, which is always interesting, as men don’t often ‘open their hearts’ when they’re actually speaking, so it’s hard and to know what the hell they’re thinking.
I could go on, but I’m going to stop here. Just read it!