Fiction & Biography

CMME lilitll l E P MANDA SCOTT No Good Deed rHearrme Etc, 0.

First writes

Putting debut novelists under the microscope

Bruno Maddox

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Manda Scott’s first novel Hen ’5 Teeth was an eccentric little number, an inventive tale of multiple murders, lesbian detectives and chickens which surprised traditionalists by being nominated for the Orange Prize. After such a rapid success (followed up by two sequels), Scott might have been expected to repeat her triumphant formula, or at least proceed in similar vein, for literary eternity. Yet it would appear that some shadowy authority figure at Headline scrawled ‘See Me’ in red biro at the bottom of the treatment for her latest novel, thence to politely but firmly advise her to control her quirkier tendencies or else stay behind at three-thirty and help the janny clear up the playground. The result of this stylistic U-turn is No Good Deed, a fairly conventional thriller which is over-written and ponderous in parts while sorely missing the originality and edge of Scott’s debut. The sleuth here is Special Branch operative Orla McLeod, one of those gutsy, tortured heroines who, in the bloodthirsty opening scene, survives an abortive undercover sting in a Maryhill flat. Her saviour is nine-year-old Jamie


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of this plot, No Good Deed is an infuriating .. ,(m M rt. . « , “at... read, the main problem being one of faltering to: ed 3') rake T'trr: . m r. or .e pace. The book opens dramatically then rm: ° immediately descends into plodding . ,r. Basically W,“ ,, m _ introspection, leaving the reader to scan Scott abandons previous triumphs and hopes for the best I, 1. M, m, “V .,.,f Hm”, page after page of digression and U 1.).“ U. I, (g Mi. Mi, ,, I, I, overwrought character development in search of some tenacity to remain with the book until its final “at “HM. Hf)“, ) ‘1 I). l, I, I! U, I“ much needed action. There are only so many of the revelations. MN: (I M'ng Hm H, mm. confabs between Orla and her colleagues that we No Good Deed really suffers by lacking a coherent '[MW [(1 ,L, HAM ,.l‘:,,l,l.,.) .4 I, /. require access to, particularly when her male style. There are snatches of black humour, the dialogue New}, “Mimi” Wm.) “H, counterparts are interchangeable archetypes who talk is noirish and the characters bear old-fashioned Scots (1‘, mm (M, , ‘13, as though permanently giving a lecture. names that could have been pinched from Highlander mummy Wm. (“H ., . w The relationship between Orla and Jamie is or even Oor Wullie (Murdo Cameron, Morag McLeod, WW I,” h. ham“. MM, ,1/ touchingly depicted, allowing Scott the opportunity to Donald Laidlaw). But the overall effect is less of a WW.) .,I .1,” , explore the darker aspects of her heroine’s character, heightened reality, more of chucking things in as they mm” W“ .) [mm H,” though readers will require extreme patience and occur and hoping for the best. (Allan Radcliffe) “I I,“ WM '1, A; WM“ Hmmmm

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