Written by KA Laity — Feeling safe and secure in your world of hardboiled noir? Happy and content to read tales of urban murder and mayhem? Then it’s time to take a step out of your comfort zone and into the madcap brain of author KA Laity who has written a book unlike any crime novel I’ve read before. It has an apt title too, because there is more than a sprinkling of Alice in Wonderland about White Rabbit.
The story opens as Draygo is attempting to summon the spirits for a decidedly dispirited client. An ex-copper who left the force under a cloud, Draygo relies far too heavily on his silent sidekick, Jinx, and pocketfuls of some mysterious hallucinogenic he calls ‘fairy dust’ which he imbibes to turn his world from monochrome to fully fledged Technicolor.
These days Draygo makes his living as a psychic, using all the tricks of the trade to part punters from their cash. Or so it seems initially, but soon we realise that this medium really can see the dead. In fact, they haunt him, pleading for help, information and closure.
So when celebrity trophy wife Peaches Dockmuir calls upon his services, Draygo sees a proliferation of pound signs. Peaches arrives in a waft of expensive perfume with a request to talk to her deceased predecessor, the less exotically named Beryl, about the mysterious ‘white rabbit’. But before Draygo can even pretend to help her, Peaches is dead – shot at the seance table by one of the heavies she brought along with her. Suddenly, Draygo is being treated as a murder suspect.
He is sprung from custody by Helen Saunders, a freelance journalist who is investigating a big story involving some decidedly dodgy knock-off Viagra, which is linked to the uber rich media mogul husband of the late Peaches. The pills just happen to have white rabbits printed on them, and users have been disappearing to a mysterious place, rumoured to be called the Warren. Can Draygo and Saunders combine their talents and get to the bottom of it, assisted by the persistent spirit of the late Mrs Dockmuir?
The early pages of White Rabbit reminded me of the old Sam Spade stories by Dashiell Hammett – damsel in distress seeks help from washed-up detective. In this case, it’s a washed-up-former-detective-now-medium who uses words like ‘moxie’ – I kid you not. But it is set in the here and now and never lets the reader forget that fact. The backdrop is London, but this plot line is more at home in seedy backstreet pubs than glitzy high-rise offices and Laity conveys a mucky undercurrent much like that of the River Thames, where some scenes are set.
It is a skilled writer who can make you laugh and come close to tears in a mere few pages, as happens here. Draygo is a fine central character. Flawed, addicted and self-obsessed, he is also truly haunted and somehow more likeable because of the way he struggles to handle it all. Jinx never says a word, but his actions speak volumes, and Saunders is a feisty female who will go to any lengths to get her story.
Not my usual fare, and I struggled somewhat to leave reality behind as I delved into its pages, but an entertaining read all the same.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars