Detective Frank Miller knows he is the fictional hero of the novels written by The Man Upstairs – still, he needs to save Chapeltown from its devious Mayor
Who are you when you are nothing but someone’s imagination? When your life could be over at the stroke of a pen? A character in a book, created to play a role? When you are able to grasp this fact and think outside your character, does it mean you can take responsibility for your life? What is your life’s purpose if not following another man’s lead? What is preferable: to be oblivious of this or to be one of the few to realise the harsh truth?
Detective Frank is a womaniser and not afraid to use violence. Even the smallest things get him excited, like his on/off girlfriend Madge in her blue pyjamas. His stories always end with a beautiful blonde (the hair colour may vary) in the one and a whisky in the other hand. Literally Frank is one for whom the pen is mightier than the sword as he is the protagonist in over twenty novels, written by The Man Upstairs (TMU). A fact of which Frank is fully aware since the case of The Black Widow, an extremely successful instalment where he for the first time realised he was nothing more but a mere puppet, playing to the tune of his master TMU. Seemingly, Frank is the only one who knows Chapeltown is an imaginary city with fictional people. Madge wants Frank to commit but he knows, a change in his character will cause TMU to kill him and everyone in Chapeltown, including Madge.
Frank has more worries: he does not trust Mayor Jackson and is suspicious of the Mayor’s Chapeltown Angels (nurses responsible for the city’s elderly). When a lovely Angel is found dead, Frank feels the need to investigate and for that, he has to meet the other Angels. To his surprise, he finds each of them susceptible to his charms, even if he is the ultimate ladykiller. He is only too happy to oblige but there is always a price to pay… Frank falls in love but realises that is out of character and could well cause the series of books to end abruptly. He is deliberating whether or not he should risk changing his character and, although he is fully aware of TMU’s lack of response, tries to provoke him anyway. He knows too well what is expected of him, the sleuthing and the violence, the man who will never settle down – but what about his thoughts? Does TMU control them and if not, could this be the way to reach TMU and change the outcome?
Whilst Frank is desperate to find a way to communicate with TMU to convince him to alter his plans, the reader is confused. If TMU is able to shape any destiny, why would he be even slightly concerned about a single individual like Frank? Using his power to eliminate his own creations is what in the end will also kill TMU’s existence and would he ever venture such extreme measures? In the world of the conspiring Mayor and his Angels, Frank is about to undergo the most gruesome abuse and torture without having any clue as to what is going on in Chapeltown, let alone whether he is able to solve this case. Frank is in despair; is he losing his mind or TMU or maybe Frank is losing it because of TMU’s failure or perhaps this is all part of TMU’s master plan…
Nothing is what it seems in this unusual book which from the outset, looks like a dark detective mystery featuring Frank Miller, Chapeltown’s detective. Soon I was racking my brain: what is this book about and where is the logic behind the two (sometimes contradicting) layers? There is a detective story but also another plotline within it and the only one realising this is Frank Miller, the tough cookie detective with his sardonic wit. If Frank is the product of TMU’s imagination, how can he know as it is the author who created him? Does The Man Upstairs refer to a divinity with power over life and death or to the intriguing question about our perception of truth? Are we not all products of our TMU -whether you call him by a name or our maker? This well-written fascinating book makes us explore our views with regards to our own (limited) influence on our mortality. That makes The Man Upstairs an intriguing and thought-provoking existentialist novel with a touch of deviously dark humour.
About the Author
Mark Fowler is a graduate in philosophy from Leicester University, who lives in Staffordshire, and is currently writing a follow-up to Red Is The Colour. When he isn’t writing he enjoys time with family and friends, watching TV and films, playing guitar/piano and going for long walks. ‘Coffin Maker’ is the author’s 2014 début novel (my review), in which his interest for psychological thrillers, crime fiction and horror is combined. His other works are: ‘Silver’ (Bloodhound Books, 2016 – my review) and soon to be published with Bloodhound Books: Red is the Colour (July 2017).
|Publisher||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (29 Sept. 2015)|