Stuart David’s character Peacock Johnson has already been through a bit, appearing in an earlier David novel and an actual Ian Rankin crime novel (it’s a long story). Now he’s back in Peacock’s Alibi, a fun caper highlighted by the main character’s colorful narration.
David (best known as co-founder of the innovative band Belle and Sebastian) writes with a memorable voice, and his Peacock Johnson is a fully realized small-time operator—a thief who knows his way around the scene and is focused on the one big idea that will change his life.
In this case, an acquaintance has promised to front the money for a fingerprint-shaving technology, but only once said acquaintance’s ex-wife is newly married, freeing him from alimony payments. That ex-wife is best friends with Peacock’s own spouse, and in the course of the story he learns information that leaves him torn over whether that wedding should go forward. At the same time, local Detective Inspector McFadgen is obsessed with sending Peacock to prison over the murder of a local informant, and is convinced his alibi for the night in question is a little too airtight.
Throughout the book, Peacock needs to juggle conversations with his dogged pursuer, his belittling mother-in-law, his narcissistic wife, the annoyed know-it-all of the local crime scene, and various fellow ne’er do wells—all while trying to clear his name, figure out who committed the murder, and determine what to do about the pending nuptials. That’s a lot of ground to cover in a short novel, and creates an enjoyably frantic atmosphere throughout.
Peacock’s small world feels lived in, and there’s a clever in-joke in the way other characters react to his exploits in the Rankin novel, which he insists weren’t real. Peacock’s Alibi is an enjoyable entry in a series that we hope will continue.
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