Icon’s Request by Gareth Wiles. Book review

Icon’s Request by Gareth Wiles, Matador, 2012, p/b £7.99

Reviewed by Simon Ives

There is no doubt that Gareth Wiles is a talented, intelligent and very humorous writer. This is his second novel featuring Peter Smith as his protagonist.  That’s Peter Smith who may or may not be dead.

And here’s the problem straight away.  This is a sequel to I Am Dead which features not only Peter but many of the other characters featured in this book, and is part of Wiles’ The Great Collective series.  It is soon clear that the first book is pretty much vital to understanding what is happening, not least because several of the characters refer to the book and the book itself eventually appears.

Notwithstanding, this is still a hugely enjoyable read.  The pace is frenetic throughout.  The first section of the book features the mysterious being known as Reaping Icon and introduces us to a collection of brutal murderers who will each become involved in Peter’s life.

Part Two introduces Peter, who is suffering from acute amnesia, and the main supporting cast, most of whom work at Mrytleville Police Station.  A series of murders occur in one of those incestuous communities where everybody seems to know the business of everybody else.  In fact, one of the characters even remarks “this whole thing is like one of those dodgy clichéd murder mystery TV shows.”  Indeed, but handled with grim humour.

At the centre of it all is Peter.  He is beaten up, arrested, set free, kidnapped, beaten up again and eventually manages to somehow solve the murders.  To this end he is assisted by various members of the constabulary, with varying degrees of competence.

The third section is brief, but resolutely weird.  There are dreams/future visions, more references to and appearances of Reaping Icon, dead characters reanimate only to die again and I Am Dead returns to (possibly?) link everything together.  And what is The Space?

In Part Four the scene changes and there are more murders and a blackmail plot to unravel, as well as a further vicious beating for Peter.  An Epilogue makes it clear that Peter’s tale is not yet told and a third book in the series, A Matter of Dark, is already published with a fourth on the way.

Well written with fascinating characters and cracking comic dialogue, I heartily recommend this with one reservation – read I Am Dead first.  My copy is due to arrive tomorrow.