Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong by Gina Markham – Review
By Sandra Callard
Humorous, in parts witty, this semi-autobiographical book is based on Gina Markham’s early life, and her heroine, Mavis Upton, is loosely based on herself and her sudden decision in her thirties to make her dream of joining the police a reality.
Mavis, aka Gina Markham, describes herself as having a “wicked sense of humour”. Well, this is surely for the reader to decide, but go on, make me laugh.
The chapters follow each new experience in her police career, which inevitably causes chaos to all and sundry. The upshot of this is that you know that every new thing that happens to Mavis will end in disaster. Ennui settles upon the reader, and the only surprise is that Mavis manages to achieve Police Officer of the Year.
It is an odd mixture of clever flashes of humour and boring jokes which she too often follows with a sentence explaining what the joke is. This, perhaps, means that she thinks her readers are too idiotic to understand it in the first place. And if you have to explain a joke, is it really a joke at all?
“My faith in our police forces’ intellect is irretrievably dented”
Mavis has a seven-year-old daughter at the start of the book, and the scenes between the two are twee and saccharine. Her daughter’s words are liberally scattered with words written to contain multiple letters: “That is soooo funny mum”, “That’s so deeeesgusting”, “Muuuuum, what are you doing?”. The reader inevitably has to read the lengthy letters, (you cannot stop yourself, I tried), and it is immensely irritating.
The story is peopled by police employees who continually pick their noses, probe their ears for wax, emit copious amounts of snot, fart, burp and make references to Mavis’s large appendages, coyly called her nellies. My faith in our police forces’ intellect is irretrievably dented.
The above being said, Markham has created a wonderful character in Mavis’s mum, hopefully based on her real mum. Her name is not mentioned as she is called mum or nan throughout, but has a nice line in malapropism, and some really funny lines of advice for Mavis. She is witty without knowing it, and is an appealingly warm and well rounded character.
This is an easy book to read, certainly not challenging, but equally not as sharp and witty as it could have been. Markham’s observational skills of policing are admirable, but the humour is slightly immature in its presentation and, overall, the book does not achieve its full potential.
‘Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong’ by Gina Markham is published by Urbane, £7.99