Gary Thorn goes for a pint with a work acquaintance called Brendan. When Brendan leaves early, Gary meets a girl in the pub. He doesn’t catch her name, but falls for her anyway. When she suddenly disappears without saying goodbye, all Gary has to remember her by is the book she was reading: The Satsuma Complex. But when Brendan goes missing, Gary needs to track down the girl he now calls Satsuma to get some answers.
And so begins Gary’s quest, through the estates and pie shops of South London, to finally bring some love and excitement into his unremarkable life…
Comedian Bob Mortimer’s debut novel The Satsuma Complex is a madcap comedic crime story, a rather bizarre and fast-paced tale.
Centred around thirty-year-old legal assistant Gary Thorn, who is a rather timid, shy loner, we meet a rather quirky cast of characters when Gary’s colleague is murdered not long after a trip to the pub. What ensues is a rather chaotic, nonsensical journey to find out the killer, as well as uncovering the identity of a mysterious woman that Gary met at the pub.
“My name is Gary. I’m a thirty-year-old legal assistant with a firm of solicitors in London. To describe me as anonymous would be unfair but to notice me other than in passing would be a rarity. I did make a good connection with a girl, but that blew up in my face and smacked my arse with a fish slice.”
Written in first-person, the narrative style feels very stream-of-consciousness. Unrestrained and travelling down tangents. I found there was very little introspection, so whilst the characters actions did suggest he was growing as a person – befriending and caring for his neighbour, chasing after a woman he believes could be a match – there is little internal dialogue to really help solidify the character’s progression in the story.
Additionally, the humour tries very hard in the story but ultimately falls flat. The dialogue, in particular, was unnatural and forced. Overly ridiculous at times and a bit cringey. I appreciate that fans of Bob’s humour might love his type of storytelling, but if you’re not familiar with his work and you go into the story blind, I dare say this isn’t going to be a story you’ll fall in love with.
“I was slightly perturbed by what Grace had to say, so I took a little stroll to calm me down. It’s something I often do when I feel ill at ease. This is how I use a walk to my advantage: I imagine, for example, that it’s a beautiful sunny day and I’m wearing a pair of baggy red corduroy shorts and a magnificent pair of tan yellow clogs.”
I appreciate that the story is a fast-paced, compact one, meaning you don’t have to sit with it too long. The story doesn’t drag, nor loiter. It is, after all, a crime novel and so the reader is engaged each chapter because we want to find out the killer’s identity.
My favourite character is Gary’s neighbour Grace – quick-witted, dry, and genuinely funny. She acts as a vessel for Gary to grow, especially as he learns to lean on another person and trust them enough to let them help him in his journey.
“Girlfriends are a topic I am never that comfortable talking about. I know I’m not good-looking but I’m not a full-on spud. I would describe my face as forgettable (certainly many people seem to forget it), and I’m five foot seven and a half inches, which is just one and a half inches below the national average (I’ve looked this up on many occasions).”
A rather absurd, oddball and accelerated tale suited for occasional readers, The Satsuma Complex skews male, 25+
Thank you to the publishing company for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Satsuma Complex
Simon & Schuster Book Publishers