As Barry Forshaw says in his new and prestigious guide to the genre, Brit Noir:
RUSSELL JAMES is a crime writer (and historian of the genre) who absolutely refuses to be categorised; he is as adept at a kind of unsparing British hard-boiled writing as he is at black comedy — and entries in that genre rarely come blacker than The Newly Discovered Diaries of Doctor Kristal. James has set his quirky and beguiling comedy in the swinging 60s, and the format consists of the diaries of a doctor, a virginal 35-year-old with a predilection for homicide (the wordy subtitle is ‘whose strange obsessions cause him to murder some annoying patients’). The eponymous Doctor Kristal is a really unusual creation in a genre which has had its fair share of eccentric murderers, and one of the particular pleasures of the book is seeing how the old Adam — sexual desire — can upset the best laid plans of even those who regard themselves as safely above such things.
A black comedy set in the Swinging Sixties (1963-4) and revealed through the diaries of a doctor – 35 years old and still a virgin – whose curious obsessions drive him to start murdering his patients.
Doctor Kristal is picky, pedantic and super-sure he’s right – though he doesn’t see himself that way. In his consulting room he regards most patients with contempt, and on his lonely walks through the graveyard he muses on life and death. In the pub his only friend, a doctor approaching retirement, tries to sell Kristal his practice and to interest him in a young female doctor across town. Kristal, though, is becoming obsessed with two attractive patients. First there is sexy young Jane Quinney, a girl he has helped before, who now finds herself pregnant and wants his help again. Next is the alluring Eleanor, unhappily married to an older man (an overweening actor) who asks if there is any way to slow her husband’s voracious sexual appetite.
Kristal thinks himself immune from any hint of sexual passion – but when there are two beautiful women, desperate for his help, isn’t there anything he can do?
“Sick, nasty, balefully funny. I loved it.” – James Havers.
What did Crime Time magazine think? Read their favorable – if quirky – review here
Has your doctor ever asked you for a sample? Here’s one from Doctor Kristal.