In the dedication to Triple Helix, author Keith Spratley gives readers a rather
broad hint as to what he's after in this prequel to Provincial Eye:
is also dedicated to the memory of Douglas Adams. So long, and thanks for
all the inspiration!" It always pays to read the dedication, the preface, the
acknowledgements -- it can be a big help in getting you in the proper mindset for the
fiction that follows.
That holds true for this second book in Spratley's "Provincial Eye"
sci-fi/mystery/thriller arc, starring once more ex-SAS officer turned private
detective Mike Logan, a man with a tragic past whose good luck has held to the
extent that a rich uncle left him everything, including a lovely little estate
in Enmore. It's a jump back in time for
the handsome, sensitive but family-less Briton, back to his first case as a PI
(er, the only PI) in the provincial burg of Bridgwater. Readers -- and Mike Logan --
are introduced to Mike's part-time man-on-the-street Adrian Upton, a few more
blanks in Mike's life of misfortune are filled, and another smart and lovely
woman from Mike's university days -- here, the African beauty and software
brainiac Sophie M'Benga -- makes a return appearance to his world, as does his
ex-military mate Steve Mason. So what about the Adams bit, readers may wonder.
It's apparent but not obvious if you're looking for the subtle similarities.
While Triple Helix might start out like a standard series mystery, that classification doesn't hold true for long.
A series of disappearances of genetically similar young men, including a local
but internationally prominent heavy-metal bass player and a set of identical
twins of Germanic heritage, turns out to be something far more sinister -- and
far more bizarre -- than a mere serial killer on the loose or government
conspiracy. It's aliens -- and time travel, and cross-dimensional genetic
manipulation -- and it's the fate of the Earth at stake.
Shades of Hitch Hiker's Guide and Dirk Gently? Oh, yeah, but not lifted
straight out by any means. Keith Spratley has simply hit his stride as far
as the tone he's after. Triple Helix is gentle blend of atypical gumshoe on the
case and absurdly situational sci-fi.
Mike Logan is no Arthur Dent, nor thinly veiled Dirk Gently. He's his own man, a more sensitive but equally capable sort of 007 not directly in Her Majesty's service. He gets the girl -- temporarily, at least -- and he saves the world (or, as in Provincial Eye, at least the kingdom).
But some of his mates, like the Ford Prefect-y Brian Fox, and a lot of the weird situation vis a vis the aliens and time travel and such, will be familiar to Adams' legions of fans.
Still, the answer to the meaning of life isn't just "42" within these pages
In all, this book succeeds better than its predecessor in veering off the serious technothriller straight and narrow. Triple Helix is
a wry, at times goofy (oh, those adorable identical/fraternal Teller twins), headlong enjoyable read.
There are hints and intimations of new mysteries needing just such a man as Mike
Logan to solve them down the road. Readers can hop on board the "Provinicial
Eye" train and look forward to a long line of cars.