Dress Down Sunday: The Button Man by Mark Pryor

published 2014


Button Man

[Hugo and Merlyn are investigating a crime: they are trying to get into an exclusive club, so have to dress for the occasion]

As they approached the coat check, Hugo felt a flutter in his stomach. He’d still not seen Merlyn’s outfit and he’d do his best not to look, and then to act nonchalant when he did look. She’d slipped her long coat from her shoulders and handed it to a young man sporting what looked like rubber shorts. Merlyn wore a black leather bra, plain and well-fitting, and a matching skirt that clung to her body and ended just, and only just, below the curve of her bottom. A pair of plain black knee boots finished the look, and Hugo was relieved not to see stilettos, but for no reason he’d be able to articulate.
His covert admiration of Merlyn ended when the young man moved to help Hugo off with his coat, the American suddenly aware of his own attire and how ridiculous he felt… 

He frowned at her and then realized that if he was going to tussle with his ego all night, he was fighting a losing battle. He changed his scowl to a sheepish grin and shrugged. After all, undercover is undercover, he thought. No matter the cover.

commentary: More undercover than underwear this week, but Merlyn is wearing a bra top… And Hugo’s outfit is not as in the picture above, he ‘rejected the chaps-and-thong outfit advocated by Merlyn, and went with the leather pants and a matching tasselled vest.’ At this particular club there is an 80% rule: ‘you have to be in 80% leather.’

This is a prequel to Pryor’s The Bookseller, covered on the blog here, and is set in England. Apparently the author was originally English, though you wouldn’t know it from this book – the hero’s male sidekick is an MP who is a hereditary Lord (problem 1) and who is investigating something not in his own constituency (problem 2) and talks in a way nobody has ever talked outside films (problem 3). The fact that the police get his title wrong is minor in comparison. This kind of mistake happens all the time, but usually in cozys allegedly set in England – but actually on Planet Nowhere – by authors who not only don’t know much about the UK, but seem never to have visited here, nor met anyone who has done so.

Anyway. It’s a rollicking adventure which I quite enjoyed, although there is one oddity about it. My friend Col (over at the Criminal Library) first introduced me to Pryor, and when he reviewed this book he said:
Sadly for this particular reader an occurrence-event-death kind of derailed this train just as it was picking up a head of steam. I kind of thought – really, you just did that……oh ok, where are we going now then?
- I’ve not discussed it with Col since, but I think I know exactly what he means, and I agree with him. A very promising line of plot, and one that the reader assumes is going to be one of the major features of the book, disappears part of the way through, and it is very disappointing.

But I did enjoy the bizarre collection of crimes and the strange motive. The title is a great one – apparently a button man is a low-ranking hood, as it might be, a Mafia foot soldier.

The image comes from Wikimedia Commons and is by Jakkolwiek. I look at this resource a lot, but there are phrases that you search on where you have to take a deep breath first, because a lot of what comes up will be NSFW. I thought that would be the case with ‘leather party’, but it was very vanilla, luckily, I needn’t have worried.


  1. I've read mysteries like that, too, Moira, where it seemed the author wanted an English context, but didn't really create an authentic one. Still, I'm glad you enjoyed this one, even if one of the plot threads didn't blossom into a full-grown part of the storyline. Sometimes a rollicking fun story is just what you need.

    1. Yes, Margot, and despite my complaints this was an entertaining read.

  2. Moira, I liked this novel too, though, unlike Col and now you, I did not review it. I have since forgotten many of the details. However, I plan to read other books by Mark Pryor.

    1. I'd have been interested to hear your views - make sure you post reviews if you read more of his books!

  3. Thanks for the mention and I'm glad to find I wasn't the only one who was disappointed in the turn the book took. Probably my least favourite of the 4 from Pryor that I have tried. Still I haven't been put off him.

  4. Glen passed on his copy of The Bookseller to me, so I will try that one and decide whether to read more. I am not sure I like prequel that come after a few books, but I am sure it depends on the author, etc.

    1. I think I liked the Bookseller better than this one, and I do keep reading his books despite my reservations...


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