Prolific writer Dave Matthes is back with the latest instalment in The Mire Man Trilogy, which depicts the life and times of misanthropic drunkard, Arlo Smith. Paradise City, the second book in the trilogy, picks up a year or so after the events of Bar Nights and finds Arlo still a self-committed patient of Moriarty's Institute. We don't spend too much time in Moriarty's, however, as Arlo begins to tell his Doctor the truth about why he is there we are transported back to Arlo's messed up, dysfunctional childhood.
Arlo candidly recalls his first experiences with girls, women and booze, his tumultuous relationship with his mother and her abusive boyfriends, and also his first encounter with death. All of which build up to a harrowing, heartbreaking crescendo. These glimpses into his past help to shed a little light on just why he is the self-destructive, down and out mess that we met in the first book, however, Arlo is the definition of an unreliable narrator. As you read the book, especially recounting the events of the first one, you genuinely have no idea what to believe. It is this precarious balancing act between fact and fantasy, truth and insanity, that makes the story all the more exciting and gripping.
Matthes' prose is as smooth as always, however he does have a tendency to lay it on a little thick at times. I think a touch more spit and polish and a further round of editing would have served this novel well. Having said that, the rough around the edges rawness that is possesses does make it feel more immediate and gives it a certain rudimentary charm, and I quite like that about it, so what the fuck do I know?!
Knowing Dave Matthes and his relentless work ethic, the third book in the trilogy, Return to the Madlands, will be before you've even had time to finish reading this review. I am looking forward to finding how this story unfolds, but I am certainly not holding my breath for a happy ending for Mr Arlo Smith.
Buy the book now on Amazon UK or Amazon US.