MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN by Paul Magrs

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Hmm. We loved Scarlet Empress and were a bit iffier about Blue Angel. Up till now, "by Paul Magrs" has been a recommendation. But after Mad Dogs And Englishmen, we're not so sure.

There's no doubt that Paul Magrs can write, and this book's ridiculously readable. Trouble is, though, it's nothing but froth. Well-done froth, without a doubt, but froth all the same.

The weakest parts of Blue Angel were the parody sections, and unfortunately Mad Dogs And Englishmen is virtually all parody. Worse, the parody's so thinly disguised that we wondered why Magrs even bothered with the cover names. It's seriously groansome stuff, and we mean really bad. Like when the Doctor advises the CS Lewis character to base his children's novel around a piece of household furniture. Ouch! Or when a dog character describes himself as a double agent who's "licensed to rip throats out". Moaaan!

As we said about Blue Angel, parody tends to distance the reader, and that's what happens in spades in Mad Dogs And Englishmen. It's all very amusing, but we don't actually care about any of it. Half an hour after you put it down, you've forgotten you even read it. That's not necessarily a fault - there's nothing wrong with comedy, after all - but given what an impression The Scarlet Empress made on us it seems a shame this book couldn't make more of an impact.

Needless to say, Iris is in here, under a transparent disguise. We've got no objection to Iris, but she's not really extended here beyond her previous portrayals. And that, together with the parodies, is really what's wrong with this book. It's Magrs, but it's Magrs exactly as before. We loved Magrs's schtick the first time we saw it, but it's not enough to gallop around on the same old hobbyhorses time and time again. Magrs showed a breathtaking depth of imagination in The Scarlet Empress, but his invention seems sadly to be dwindling away into self-parody (literal self-parody, in some cases. The University of Angila?).

Despite all this, though, we're giving the book a high rating. It's an insanely speedy read, and it's entertaining all the way. Given the number of EDAs we've ploughed through in a coma of boredom, we're deeply grateful.

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