Tair Rheol Anrhefn (The Three Rules of Anarchy) is Daniel Davies’s fifth book and is the winner of the 2011 Daniel Owen Memorial Prize, one of the chief literary awards presented at the National Eisteddfod.
Immediately this book was Not My Friend. The general state of mild irritability in which I constantly live was heightened considerably when I observed with disappointment that the author had opted to use dashes instead of quotation marks. Why, when countless millions of writers and readers manage famously with quotation marks? In the absence of any mark signifying the closure of a quotation, how many times, during the reading of this book, did I find myself in the middle of a speech that did not make sense, only to realise that I had left the speech, and was in the middle of narrative again? How annoying.
However, I forged ahead and soon found I couldn’t put it down. It’s a thrillingly fantastical tale of intrigue and industrial espionage set against the slightly unlikely backdrop of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path – with some cryptic clues for those who enjoy that sort of thing; personally I was carried along on the crest of the action.
Dr Paul Price and Professor Mansel Edwards have developed the next generation of LCD televison technology – not in Tokyo or Silicone Valley as one might expect, but in the dusty halls of Aberystwyth University. The Welsh boffins’ research is a threat to the vested business interests of several international parties, wherein lies the subterferge and intrigue of a convoluted plot to acquire and suppress their research. Their lives are in dire peril!
As the tale unfolds from this anus-clenching premise, most of the action occurs during a Pembrokeshire walking holiday undertaken by anti-hero Paul. He encounters various characters who turn out not to be all they seem, and becomes embroiled in twists and turns which involve eccentric walkers and sundry members of the police and the secret service. Throw in the occasional murder for good measure, season with plenty of romantic conflict and tension, and you can be sure that the reader’s hand is constantly reaching for the next page.
The tongue-in-cheek delivery is established quite firmly in the first couple of chapters when a surprise birthday party for Paul degenerates into a hilariously unpleasant full-scale family feud, unwittingly set off by an inebriated Paul. He manages to upset not only his own dysfuncional relatives, but also his partner Llinos’s, with repercussions that haunt him for the rest of the tale.
So. A contemporary tale with hints of James Bond action – though I can’t see an entire 007 movie being shot entirely on location in Pembrokeshire (not even with a few scenes shot in Pembroke Dock). I mean, youth hostels, anoraks and walking boots can only precipitate a very limited amount of excitement – unless you’re blessed with Daniel Davies’s imagination and story-telling skills. Take the novel with the pinch of salt with which it is offered, and enjoy!