cover image Divorcing Jack

Divorcing Jack

Colin Bateman. Arcade Publishing, $19.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-55970-310-9

Witty, fast-paced and engaging, Bateman's debut novel deals with the dilemma of a young Belfast columnist who looks beyond his marriage for sexual satisfaction only to get caught up in a search for damaging information about a prominent political candidate. When Dan Starkey returns to the apartment of his new conquest, Margaret McBride, after going out for pizza, he finds the young brunette riddled with bullets; worse, Starkey accidentally kills the woman's mother during a subsequent struggle in the dark. Margaret turns out to have been a politician's daughter, and her dying utterance (``divorce... Jack... divorce'') sends the fugitive Starkey in pursuit of a tape that reveals the sordid past of the leading candidate in the upcoming election for prime minister. As he hunts for the tape, Starkey is pursued by several parties, including an IRA contingent with a reputation for mayhem and violence. With the exception of an unexpected ending turning on double murder, the plot machinations are formulaic, but Bateman rarely lets the action flag. What makes this tale stand out, however, is the wit and charm of its protagonist, a sweet-tempered cynic with a devilish sense of humor. The intricate Irish politics are gracefully rendered, and Bateman's wry take on the gritty Belfast landscape adds an appealingly light touch. The author apparently has another Dan Starkey novel in the works; that's very good news indeed. (Sept.)