Tangled Web UK Review May 2000
File Updated: 02/05/00
Oh No, Not My Baby Oh No, Not My Baby by Russell James
pbk out September 99 (Do Not Press) at 7.5
There are few police officers in Russell James’s bleak thrillers, and in this novel even the cops are often not quite what they seem. The central character, Nick, is a professional saxophonist. When he was at school, he nursed an unsatisfied passion for the lovely Babette. His life is turned upside down when Babette returns to him out of the blue, with a university degree and an active role in the animal rights movement. After a night of passion, he drives her to a meat-processing plant, her next target. But Babette does not come back to him, human remains are discovered in the mincer, and Nick is a suspect for murder.
This is the prelude for a grim dance of nasty shocks, mistaken motives and broken dreams. Nothing and no one are what they appear to be. Nick is an innocent man plunged into a terrifying world beyond his understanding, whose humanity and essential decency stand out in stark contrast with his surroundings.
Nick belongs to a venerable tradition - innocents abroad inhabit, and often narrate, many fine thrillers. The narrative occasionally judders a little awkwardly between points of view. But in ample compensation Russell James dusts the storyline with characteristic melancholy leavened with blackish humour (there’s a wonderful passage involving a foetus on the loose). And there’s some delicate characterisation, too, particularly involving Nick’s band.

( Andrew Taylor - author of the highly acclaimed Roth & Lydmouth Series)


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