"Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks"
Reading history and reviews
Finished on 27th February 2009This was another book lent by a friend and one that I suppose I wouldn't otherwise have chosen to read. But in the event I enjoyed it immensely. Although it's clear from the outset that this it's about the paranormal, initially it wasn't too clear to me where the story was going (although the otherwise-cryptic title might have helped had I known that it's from a quote from the sceptic James Randi, the debunker of paranormal phenomenon).
The story is told in alternating sections by each of the four main characters (something that reminded me of Irvine Welch's Porno), with the central figure being the hard-bitten journalist Jack Parlabane, who is called in as a sceptic to witness the alledged paranormal feats of celebrity medium Gabriel Lafayette as they are tested under laboratory conditions. (Parlabane's colourful past is alluded to so much that I began to wonder if they are from a previous series of "Parablane" novels.)
The book feels like it would be a great airplane novel, as it's immensely readable, and I particularly enjoyed how conventions from the detective genre are cleverly applied to a story about scientific investigations into the authenticity of psychic phenomena. There is murder and fraud alongside more shadowy ideological and political dealings; ultimately this is a whodunnit with a twist. At the core of the story is the question, are Lafayette's psychic powers real or not? and what I found most enjoyable about the book was how it keeps you guessing about what's really going on, pretty much right up until the end.
Along the way there is quite a lot of expository dialogue about how fraudulent mediums perform their magic. Sometimes this kind of explanatory dialogue can feel a bit lazy but I didn't find that in this case, and actually the information is quite interesting of itself. That said, it's perhaps a little ironic that Brookmyre isn't above pulling a few literary sleights-of-hand of his own to mislead the reader as to what's really going on. But even so this was a really enjoyable read and I'd certainly be interested in reading more by Christopher Brookmyre in future.