Title: Dr. Yes
Hardback: 375 pages
Publication Date: 30/09/2010
If Charlie Brooker was a hypochondriac, Belfast-based, mystery bookshop owner who moonlighted as a PI, then he would be the Shopkeeper With No Name – Dr Yes’s narrator. He’s a bubbling cauldron of acerbic comments and sarcastic wit, seemingly ailed by every medical complaint under the sun, and a complete know-it-all [even when he’s patently wrong. Hmmm, sounds a bit like me – or so I’m told!]. The reader shouldn’t really empathize with him, but for some unfathomable reason I couldn’t stop myself from liking him. And his love/hate relationship with his pregnant girlfriend, Alison [no-one’s quite sure if he’s the father], is oddly heart-warming – especially with their constant sniping.
The Case of the Pearl Necklace [as the Shopkeeper refers to it] begins when Augustine Wogan, a sobbing wreck of a crime fiction author [no change there then!], stumbles into the bookstore. Augustine is convinced that his wife was killed by the seemingly perfect plastic surgeon, Dr Yes, and that the crime has been covered up. Egged on by Alison, the Shopkeeper agrees to investigate, subsequently encountering Dr Yes’s receptionist, Pearl Knecklass – a beautiful, Botoxed, femme fatale. But when Augustine apparently commits suicide, the plot [as they say – whoever ‘they’ are] thickens, with the Shopkeeper’s inept style of detection seemingly taking him further from the truth.
Humorous crime fiction really doesn’t, on the face of it, sound like something that should work. But, once again, in the capable hands of Bateman it really does in Dr Yes. Part of his continuing success in this style is undoubtedly down to the fact that the humour and the crime strands are always beautifully woven together in a manner that precludes either strand from gaining a supremacy that could unbalance the feel of the read. And whilst crime fiction clichés are satirised in Dr Yes [including the hilarious denouement when the Shopkeeper’s grand reveal is spoilt by an unhelpful and rowdy audience, a malfunctioning soundtrack and the fact that he doesn’t actually know who is the murderer!], it is never a harsh mockery and Bateman displays an obvious knowledge for, and love of, the genre. From a personal point of view, I was especially happy to see Emil and the Detectives mentioned [one of my favourite childhood books]. Often laugh-out-loud funny [I got angry looks on the tube for breaking the unwritten commuter code of stony silence whilst reading this novel], Dr Yes is another uniquely enjoyable read from Bateman.