I wasn’t sure what to expect of Murder Most Fab, which carries the tag line ‘You’d kill to be that famous’. It looked like it could be crime fiction, but it’s not really; even though Ebury Press (an imprint of Random House) categorised it as ‘crime and mystery’. It’s also difficult to talk about the novel without giving too much of the plot away, so let’s start by saying it’s the life story of one fictional Johnny Debonair, formerly TV’s Mr Friday Night, who, when completing his story, has found himself in a bit of a predicament. Having a high risk lifestyle, Johnny D’s life has caught up with him. The questions are who, what, when, how and why and what is the outcome?
The novel opens with Johnny D’s open letter to a former lover, Timothy, and it’s clear that JD has never got over this lost love. JD, a very beautiful boy, born to a somewhat flaky and hippy mother with father unknown, has an idyllic childhood with his mother, apart from when she has ‘funny turns’ and disappears for a while – suggesting depression or bipolar disorder. Mother Alice is a free spirit who likes to roam the fields of Kent, speak to the birds, have innumerable affairs and who converses with her son in poetry. During her ‘turns’, JD finds home, time and attention with his stalwart, maternal (& wealthy) grandmother, Rita, in Blackheath. She provides some structure to his life – which he sorely needs.
JD moves on to the Lewisham School of Musical Theatre (unsuccessfully) and becomes a rent boy before finding success as a TV presenter. Along the way, there are ‘unfortunate deaths’.
Even though there is a great deal of humour in the narrative of this novel, overall I found it to be a sad tale. The tag line suggests a driving ambition to be famous, but JD came across as someone who simply fell into things along the way: a follower and not a leader. In addition to the precarious and jittery presence of a moral compass (often lost as easily as an umbrella), JD seemed to lack any sort of compass when it came to his life, apart from when travelling geographically.
The sections of the novel on his TV stardom were outweighed by his days as a rent boy, with the TV part of his life catching the short straw in the race to end the story. More evidence of a drive to stardom would have been more credible to match the tag line, but the story did not match the marketing pitch, for me anyway, and I’ll take the novel as read. JD himself is a victim of sorts, not a slave to ambition, and I’ll run with that, thanks.
Clary can certainly write fiction and I look forward to reading more. He says his next novel concentrates on evil, but there is plenty of evil in Murder Most Fab, too. Major plotting curve balls? I saw two. One I had anticipated and one that really came from the left, catching me unawares.
As for the humour, given that Clary himself would be deemed a ‘celebrity’ in this age, he makes more than one very intelligent swipe at the culture, as well as the impact of laminate flooring.
If you enjoy Clary’s humour then you will find it in this novel, albeit it’s a story that is not humour itself. Not a classic ‘whodunnit’ scenario, this novel will still keep you guessing. If you baulk at scenes of homosexual sex, skim and skip over please, because the satisfaction comes from the final pudding.
I honestly can’t say I Ioved Murder Most Fab because I was left feeling a certain way. If you read it and feel as I did, you may see my point. To disclose anything further would give the plot away and that’s not something I am prepared to do; it’s sheer stupidity. I hope we meet JD again, though. And I hope he finds a constructive compass…