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FOILED AGAIN


by Peter Guttridge

Paperback - 277 pages new edition (6 September, 2001)
Headline; ISBN: 0747262535

Reviewed by Karen Meek

FOILED AGAIN is the fifth and darkest of the Nick Madrid comedy caper crime novels so far. Freelance journalist Nick is offered a stay in New York to cover a fencing competition between America and Britain with all expenses paid so long as Britain wins. Unfortunately the tournament doesn't come to completion, when one of the fencers accidentally stabs and kills the other. During his brief stay in New York however, Nick has made some enemies. The first set are a group of bigwigs in the sport of fencing who are not happy when Nick sees them discussing some old black and white photos, especially when Nick later steals on of the photos. The other set of enemies are courtesy of Nick's morally dubious friend Balthazar who asks Nick to be the go-between between himself and the Russian mafia to discuss the future of a prostitute Balthazar has 'liberated'.

Fleeing from the mafia, Nick returns to Britain. Jobless, he decides to head north, to Yorkshire and his roots, to find out more about his unusual family name. Nick discovers several things about his granddad, for one that he changed the family name to Madrid after being implicated in a death and secondly that his granddad was one of Oswald Mosley's followers, a 'blackshirt'. When Nick realises that the stolen photo is of fencing champion, Oswald Mosley, it's time for a history lesson. What Nick learns, sends him to Florida to confront his granddad's old enemy.

This is a novel jam packed with strange events and many chases; fights with sex aids, an escape from an exhibition of 'excrement' art at the Guggenheim, a '39 Steps' style flight from the police over the moors and a swim through swamps to avoid the strangest pair of Florida hitmen you could meet. There's a lot that's good about the Nick Madrid books; they are funny with both literate humour and slapstick; erudite, with references that go way over my head, and informative, in this book the politics and life of the 1930s are well evoked. Nonetheless this wasn't a 'can't put down' book for me. I enjoyed it when I picked it up but it didn't call me to read it when I was doing something else. I think this reflects my personal taste, rather than the novel, as I like more traditional plots and I would call this more of a caper novel. I also don't like slapstick humour of which there is an increased amount in this episode.

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