three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
40-May-June-2009
By: 
Tim Davys
user_rating: 
0

A-AmbervilleOriginally published in Sweden in 2007, Amberville is shrouded in mystery. Tim Davys is a pseudonym, and the true identity of the author (presumably already famous) remains unknown.

The Story: The past has caught up with Eric Bear. A successful advertising executive, Eric lives comfortably with his lovely wife, Emma Rabbit. As a young teddy bear, however, Eric ran with a dangerous crowd and worked for leading crime boss, Nicholas Dove. Nicholas has just heard that his name has appeared on the Death List, and he wants Eric to find the mysterious list—which may not even exist—and to remove his name. To persuade Eric, he has kidnapped his wife. Gathering his former partners in crime, Eric resolves to do whatever it takes to get Emma back.
Harper. 352 pages. $19.99. ISBN: 0061625124

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Yes, it sounds kooky, weird, even hopelessly cute, like some Christmas special where the animals wear fedoras and mutter in tones of Sam Spade. … Once the ‘whoa—this is weird’ reaction subsides, Amberville is a nifty rollick that’s as bracing as a good shot of whisky." Laurel Maury

Sterling Journal-Advocate 4 of 5 Stars
"I didn’t like this novel when I started it. … But then I let myself relax into this grown-up fairy tale of good and evil, double-crosses, truth, and lies, and I was captivated. … Author Tim Davys has created a dark parallel world of characters that are stuffed with human foibles and fears." Terri Schlichenmeyer

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Though the final chapters of the novel largely turn on Eric’s existential despair and epiphanies about the string-pullers in his society, Davys keeps the plot moving by employing a few tools from the noir playbook. … And true identities constantly shift in this world—lovers might be enemies, priests can be evil, and stuffed animals, given the depth and intellect that Davys gives them, may as well be human." Mark Athitakis

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"The translation [is] clunky, the tone [is] hard-bitten and violent, and the characters’ names are anything but ironic. … It’s a given that Eric’s carefully ordered, upwardly mobile world will be blown apart like the threat to his wife, but the giddy thrill comes in how Davys accomplishes the obvious." Sarah Weinman

Critical Summary

Once readers get past the idea of murderous, debauched stuffed animals, they will find an entertaining noir thriller in Amberville, filled with hidden identities, shifting loyalties, surprising twists, and a gritty, hard-edged tone worthy of Chandler or Hammett. The odd nature of the residents of Mollison Town doesn’t impede Davys’s deft characterizations, and unraveling the secrets of the city is half the fun of reading this imaginative novel. Though Amberville delves into "Orwellian satire" (Chicago Sun-Times) toward the end, with the chief target religion, Davys is careful never to let the plot lag. Aside from a rather clumsy translation, Amberville is a "delightful mystery-thriller" (San Francisco Chronicle).