Please do not ask for mercy - by Paul Bassett Davies - book cover - review by Charles Harris


If this review is late, blame the book. I received it two years ago and read it straight through. But every time I picked it up to write a review, I was immediately sucked back in.

Please Do Not Ask For Mercy, As A Refusal Often Offends is that rare thing – an intriguing dystopian comedy. And if that puts you off, you’re missing a treat.

Davies applies the dystopia with a light touch – and is all the funnier for it. But that light touch can become chilling when you least expect it.

Less Handmaid’s Tale than Monty Python meets 1984. Or (if you are old enough to remember it) Brazil.

Please Do Not Ask For Mercy…

PDNAFMAAROO – as nobody calls it – opens with an execution candidate in high spirits. A man who sings snatches of song, recites stories for the crowd that has gathered and blasphemes shockingly. But nothing is as it seems in the world of Landmass. Even blasphemy.

Before long, there is a second death, this time a murder. An apparent open-and-shut case for Detective Kilroy. Except of course it’s nothing of the sort.

We find ourselves in a strange, slightly futuristic land, which feels faintly Irish – perhaps it’s the name of Kilroy that does it.

All cars are electric. There is an Orwellian feeling of government oversight, with roadside screens that you have to stop and watch, or else. And everyone worships “our Upstairs Parents” – who “in their wisdom and compassion gave Landmass to their children to shelter and provide for us.”

Indeed it is blasphemy to believe in another land over the water – which the credulous call “Landmass Two”. A belief which is subject to fearsome penalties.

Not what they seem

The novel alternately follows Kilroy as he tries to make sense of an increasingly dangerous case, and his close woman friend Curtis, who we rapidly realise is not what she seems.

Then there’s the mysterious Cynthia. Whose secrets threaten to turn Kilroy’s world upside-down. Or so it seems.

In fact, one of the joys of the novel is that nothing and nobody is quite what he/she/it seems. And those who seem at first glance not to be what they seem, will probably turn out to be not what they don’t seem too.

(It’s catching).

Not The Booker

The novel is beautifully written, with a sharp wit. It’s also a compelling page-turner. No surprise that The Guardian listed Please Do Not Ask… on its prestigious Not The Booker Longlist last year.

The blurb on the back-cover calls the novel Kafkaesque, though I felt it was more Flann O’Brien meets Margaret Atwood on a dark night in a detective’s raincoat.

There are also distinct shades of Orwell and more than a hint of Brexit satire.

Read it. Laugh. Shiver. Be gripped. But when you’ve finished, put it in a lead-lined casket or you might get sucked in all over again.

Get it here

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