Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Divorcing Jack: Bateman, May 17—26, 2014
My rating: ♦♦♦♦◊
Set in pre-Good Friday Northern Ireland, Divorcing Jack is a darkly comic crime adventure starring newspaper columnist Dan Starkey. When he kisses a girl at a house party, he’s given 24 hours to move out by his wife. Soon, the girl is dead and her last words, “Divorce Jack”, are all Starkey has to exonerate himself from the outlaws and lawmen who are after him.
The setting is critical to the story and provides a depth to everything and everyone. Nobody can live amid the Troubles unblemished. Everything has a subtext and Bateman accessibly and authentically brings Northern Ireland’s recent history to the fore.
Perhaps it was the lackadaisical attitude of Starkey, but there was no urgency to anything. He could be quite droll and do what he could, but there was little in the way of reacting very much to anything. Other than a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde moment with Lee (which seemed abrupt and infeasible), the lead seems surprisingly disinvested. As a result, I wasn’t gripped by the book the way I expected to be.
The plot moves at a steady pace. You never get bored, and the humour, though subtle, is never far away. The resolution comes about with relative believability, despite how impossible it seems from the outset. Although what is a rather simple story has few major twists, the writing ensures you coast rather than drag your way through.
A witty debut, much bolstered by its rich setting, and an all round decent story. I might not be rushing for the sequel, but I’ll get to it.