Fiction Reviews


(2007) Robert Rankin, Gollancz, pbk, 14.99, 336pp, ISBN 978-0-575-0-7011-0


This story is obviously written to parody the book (and film) The Da Vinci Code but is a thriller on the secrets of the world of music rather than of art. In the story a young man, Jonny Hooker, gets a Very Special Letter telling him he has been selected to be a WINNER! by a Competition Supercomputer, but he has to find the answer to the Da-Da De-Da-Da code, and why all the most famous rock musicians die aged 27, as he is that age.

He is a musician himself and he finds that a lot of pieces of music have this rhythm and it is something to do with the Devil's chord, and Robert Johnson, who played down his local pub, and the last castrato whose voice was so beautiful it touched the angels in heaven, and Elvis, and an Earth god, and the Secret Parliament of Five, who run the world from Gunnersbury Park. He gets accused of several murders he does not commit, gets in a car chase with the police, who have permission to shoot, escapes from a mental hospital, escapes drowning and other deaths, has to disguise himself as a Park keeper (or Ranger in this case, as it's one of the royal Parks) and takes a book and a laptop from a Museum. A Museum which is attached to a house with one of those creepy secret passages where you can look through a big picture with hollowed out eyes and spy on a big dining room... And then he has to get to this gig with his group on Wednesday at the local pub where he plays this so far undiscovered song and for one night becomes a famous Rock star. Then it is back to mundane life with his mum and wondering why the pedal bin is always full.

Although it seems that the action is centred on Jonny and his secret invisible friend there is a pretty girl, in fact several sexy girls and he learns to value human friendship, live on his wits, rely on himself and choose to accept (or not) his own destiny. I liked this story and found it very funny and well researched, with lots of action and interesting set pieces (it is set around London, in a Royal Park, the Docklands and Brentford), and relaxing bits to do with the Carry On films and creepy bits to do with men in white overalls in a white van, historical secrets, modern special effects and a lady playing an organ in long gloves. Robert Rankin is a Master of comic fantasy that is allying itself to Science fiction.

Anne Clothier

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