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by Gill Partridge

In today's commercial environment, an up-to-date and informative web site is a must for any serious publisher. Sadly, The Book Guild Ltd's web site tells me only that they are a small independent publishing house based in Lewes, and have been in business since 1982. Further investigations on my part revealed that they have published a book by Denis Healey, and that he is not their only celebrity author. However, I could find out nothing about Gill Partridge, author of Day One, other than what the CV on the jacket reveals.

The potted biography is an interesting one, but it surprised me. On the strength of the first few chapters, I had taken this to be a novel by a very young author, early twenties at most. Ms Partridge's varied career history suggests she is somewhat older. My initial impression came partly from the over-writing and partly from the behaviour and speech patterns of the leading character.

Alex Dean, recent graduate of a school of espionage, is just embarking on her first job as a secret agent, and that is a clever start to what is intended as a parody of the usual spy story. There is no attempt at subterfuge on the part of her mentor, Max, who takes flashy clothes and cars for granted as part of his privileged position as a James Bond lookalike. Alex, conscious from the beginning that she fails to fit the mould, does her best to take him down a peg or two, and this is the cue for the kind of unsubtle humour that characterises the book. Although it is written in the first person from Alex's point of view, the action sometimes drifts away in an inexplicable and off-putting manner to cover Max's extra-mural activities.

Cliché has a part to play in any spoof, and I wouldn't presume to criticise Gill Partridge for this alone. I was nevertheless disappointed by the heavy-handed and tautological style which she employs throughout. This could have been a really funny book. Many a teenager will probably read it and find it hilarious - but there is no evidence that it was aimed at the juvenile market. Adults are normally more discriminating; for my part, I can't say that I ever laughed out loud. Most of the jokes can be heard creaking a mile off. As for the characters, they are drawn from a well-thumbed catalogue of stereotypes.

On the plus side, the book is nicely produced, with an attractive cover and remarkably few errors in the printed text. It's a valiant attempt at a comedy thriller, but it's neither original enough nor well-written enough to attract a big audience. If the publisher is willing to make the investment and the author is prepared to work a bit harder, a sequel might be worth considering.


ISBN 1 85776 656 3
Published by The Book Guild Ltd, 2002
209pp, hardback       Retail price £16.99

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