I was invited to participate in this blog tour by Caroline Vincent who blogs at bits about books. I have previously read one of Mark’s works but the man upstairs was new to me
The book – Frank Miller, hero of the best-selling mystery novels written by The Man Upstairs, works the weird streets of Chapeltown as a private detective. During the legendary case of the Black Widow everything changed when Frank became aware of his fictional existence. Proclaimed at the time as a work of genius, Frank wonders if it was the first sign that The Man Upstairs was sick.
This latest case, involving the death of a care worker, and coinciding with the appointment of Chapeltown’s first elected mayor, has Frank baffled. The Man Upstairs appears to be losing the plot, giving the womanising Frank a steady girlfriend, Marge, who warns him that to survive he must change from the tired cliché that he has become.
As the case darkens Frank recognises the depth of his creator’s sickness. His days are numbered as clearly as the pages in the books in which he features. The looming battle with the Mayor of Chapeltown is nothing less than the battle to save himself, Marge, the series – and the mind of The Man Upstairs.
The Man Upstairs is plotting to kill Frank Miller and take Chapeltown to hell.
My thoughts – There are some interesting elements of old school detective noir here and the premise itself is interesting. I think Mark is good at committing thoroughly to a theme but the concept just didn’t gel well with me as a reader I think possibly because the characters in the novel were so caricaturish, I didn’t find myself engaging with them as people which is one of the key things I look for in a novel.
There is a clear element of humour and some chilling aspects to the story – it had real reminiscences of Sin city in its noirish – fourth wall breaking detectiveness. The comaprisons to Sin city continue when you meet the Angels who all seem to have a seedier side to them. The solid win for me in this book is that it poses the philosophical question of how much is an author influenced by his characters, at what point do they mirror his life, this novel takes it to the extreme by having the character become autonomous and able to disagree with the author. Although Mark is not the first author to broach this topic he does add an interesting spin to the idea.