27 October 2008

Fatboy & the Dancing Ladies (Michael Holman)

Available at all good bookstores, courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa

I need to preface this review by admitting that I loved its prequel so much I nearly wallpapered my study with it... At the time, about a year back, I likened Holman's debut novel, Last Orders at Harrods, to Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, with the following:

My adage has always been that if it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. This time, however, I was wrong. Last Orders at Harrods: An African Tale looks like a book by Alexander McCall Smith, sounds like a book by Alexander McCall Smith and features a township heroine who closely resembles one of Alexander McCall Smith’s – but Last Orders is another species of novel altogether.

Fatboy is less Smith-ish than its predecessor. More chilling. Less cheerful. More messages. Less merriment. In short, it's not be quite as fresh, but it's as delicious. Like Charity Mupanga's dough balls the day after. The only downside? I can't recall if corruption was as clear a theme in Last Orders as it is here but, either way, it disturbs me. Perhaps things have changed in a year?

Here's a more detailed insight, with a little less editorialising from little old me:

Ferdinand Mlambo is in big trouble. Not only has disloyalty to Kuwisha’s corrupt Life President cost him his prestigious job as senior kitchen toto, but he has also been stripped of his name: henceforth he will be known as 'Fatboy'. With the help of Titus, leader of the notorious street-children, the Mboya Boys, and under the watchful eye of the irrepressible Charity Mupanga, her suitor Ed, and a motley crew of other ex-pats, locals and neighbourhood lunatics, Mlambo sets out to recover his name - and his dignity.


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