Full Review: “Blade Runner 2049” (Film)

Well, although I wrote a rambling, in-depth “first impressions” article about “Blade Runner 2049” after seeing it at the cinema last October, I’ve now got a DVD copy of it (as something of a belated Christmas present). So, as promised in the “first impressions” article, here’s a full review. However, it’s more of a general review than an in-depth essay.

Annoyingly, although a special edition of the DVD was apparently available for pre-order on Amazon before Christmas, this planned special edition DVD release was cancelled before the film’s home video release.

Still, the “standard” DVD edition of the film isn’t exactly a ‘bare bones’ release, since it also contains all three short prequel films and a few short featurettes about the “world” of the show. Even so, it would have been nice if they’d released the special edition DVD they’d planned to release.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “Blade Runner 2049”. This review will contain some mild-moderate SPOILERS.

“Blade Runner 2049” is the 2017 sequel to the 1982 cyberpunk masterpiece “Blade Runner“.

Set thirty years after the events of that film, this film focuses on Officer K – a replicant (a human-like clone/android) police officer in a futuristic version of Los Angeles who has been tasked with locating and killing rogue replicants who went underground after a terrorist attack in 2022 wiped all records of their existence.

Needless to say, this isn’t going to be a “cosy” detective mystery…

After he tracks one of these replicants (Sapper Morton) to a protein farm outside the city, they begin a fight to the death. However, once Officer K gets the upper hand, Morton makes a cryptic remark about how Officer K is only comfortable with doing humanity’s dirty work because he has never witnessed a miracle.

Puzzled, Officer K shoots Morton before returning to his car to send a video report to police headquarters. Yet, Morton’s comment still lingers in his mind. And, after noticing a flower beside a nearby tree, he dispatches a drone to scan underneath the tree. To his surprise, a chest has been buried there. The chest contains a skeleton. But, upon further examination, it turns out that this is no ordinary skeleton…..

Plus, it raises the intriguing prospect of a “CSI: Blade Runner” spin-off too…

One of the first things that I will say about “Blade Runner 2049” is that it is one of the best modern films that I’ve seen. It’s intelligent, visually complex, sensibly paced, it respects the audience’s intelligence and it is very well-written. However, after re-watching it, I found that I slightly prefer the original “Blade Runner” to the sequel. Even so, if you’re a fan of that film, then the sequel is well worth watching (if you haven’t seen it already).

In terms of the film’s story, it tells a reasonably complex (but direct) story which is thematically consistent with the original film and also resolves some of that film’s loose ends too. This film’s story will require you to pay attention, but it isn’t too confusing.

And, yes, it also contains a couple of literary references too. But, even if – like me- you haven’t read “Pale Fire”, then the film will still make sense.

Although the film tells a reasonably complete story with a satisfying emotional payoff, a few things are left unresolved for different reasons. The sub-plot about the replicant resistance is left slightly open, presumably in case there’s ever another sequel (although this unfortunately seems unlikely, given the box office for this film). And, of course, the question about whether Deckard is a replicant is, in keeping with tradition, left tantalisingly unresolved.

There’s also a really cool call-back to the origami unicorn from the original film, that is also a reference to Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?” too 🙂

However, as brilliant as the film’s story is, it leans towards grand, large-scale drama. Although this isn’t an inherently bad thing, it means that the film lacks some of the atmosphere and vivid intensity of the much smaller-scale drama of the original “Blade Runner” film.

Seriously, all of the grand drama is really cool, but I prefer the small-scale storytelling of the original film.

In terms of the film’s pacing, I really liked it, but it is something of an acquired taste. In contrast to typical hyper-fast modern movies, this film tells it’s story in a slightly more contemplative and slower-paced way that is more like a well-written TV mini series or a good novel.

Personally, I feel that this helps to add depth and humanity to the film, whilst being in keeping with the fact that the film is an intelligent cyberpunk detective thriller movie. However, if you’re used to modern superhero movies etc.. you’ll probably find this film to be “too slow” or “boring” or whatever.

Yes, this film actually contains *gasp* dialogue, characterisation, atmosphere-setting scenes etc.. instead of just mindless fights and explosions.

In terms of characters, this film is reasonably good. Not only do we get to see a few familiar faces (eg: Deckard, Gaff, Rachel etc..), but the film’s new characters are fairly good too.

By making the main character (Officer K) a replicant, the film can explore the theme of what it is to be human. Although Officer K is presented as a fairly human character (who is treated like a second-class citizen by some humans), his replicant nature is noticeable through his slightly emotionless and mildly upbeat demeanour (this is different to the typical world-weary protagonists in the film noir genre). Yet, he is also often presented as a somewhat lonely figure, which is in keeping with the film noir genre.

Hmm… a table for one again, it seems.

Interestingly, he falls in love with a companion hologram called Joi. And this is where the film also explores what it means to be human. Although Joi displays something of a personality, it is implied that she has been programmed to please whoever has bought her. This is shown by the fact that she initially appears to be some kind of 1950s-style Stepford Wife character. But, as the story progresses, she becomes more like the kind of intelligent, courageous side-kick that Officer K needs during stressful/complex situations.

As the film progresses, Joi goes from this…

… to this. But, whether it is organic character development or merely programming is left up to the viewer to decide.

In addition to this, Deckard also makes a return too. However, the years have not been kind to him and he has turned into a grumpy, bitter old man. This character evolution fits in perfectly with the events between the two films and it really helps to emphasise how much time has passed between the films.

And, yes, this is how Deckard greets Officer K when they first meet.

The film’s villains (and, yes, there’s much less moral ambiguity in this film than in the original “Blade Runner” 😦) are something of a mixed bag. The main villain, Niander Wallace, is only seen during a couple of scenes and he comes across as a bit of a cartoonish sociopath character.

Villain? Moi?

However, his replicant henchwoman (Luv) is a slightly more interesting character. Although Luv is a merciless killer, she comes across as a more complex and unsettling character (than Wallace) due to her fanatical devotion to Wallace.

And, yes, it’s a bit strange that the villain’s side-kick is actually a better character than the main villain is.

This taps into one of the film’s themes, namely that of authority, devotion, servitude and slavery. Officer K has been manufactured to serve the LAPD (despite some cops despising him for being a replicant), yet he rebels against them… because he has been designed to investigate things. It is implied that he is paid for his work, but he is sometimes treated more like a machine than a person.

Likewise, there are a lot of parallels between Joi and Luv. Joi is designed to be devoted enough to die for Officer K, and Luv is designed to be devoted enough to Wallace to kill for him. Both characters show devotion taken to creepy extremes (in addition to emphasising the dystopian gender politics of the film’s dystopian world).

In addition to all of this, Wallace also gives a rather ominous speech in support of slavery. Yet, in a scene where he cruelly murders a “defective” prototype replicant, it is shown than even he is a slave to his own twisted sense of perfectionism. The only “free” character in this film is Deckard, who has lived most of his depressing life in hiding.

Ok, he’s been hiding in a swanky hotel, but still…

Yet, whilst the film covers many of the themes explored in the original “Blade Runner”, I didn’t really notice many more when I re-watched it. When you re-watch the original “Blade Runner”, you almost always notice something new (thematically, visually etc..). Yet, to my surprise, I didn’t really get this when I re-watched “Blade Runner 2049”. It was still as good as I remembered, but there didn’t really seem to be as many hidden depths to it as I had thought there might have been when I wrote my “first impressions” article.

In terms of set design and lighting, this film is really good. It contains a lot of the beautifully gloomy, neon-lit, dystopian cyberpunk locations that you would expect from a “Blade Runner” film, but it also has it’s own distinctive visual style too. Likewise, although the lighting occasionally includes the obligatory modern blue/orange colour scheme (like on the DVD cover), it also includes other colour schemes too.

Yes, there’s still a fair amount of classic “Blade Runner”-style stuff here.

But the film also has it’s own unique visual flourishes too.

However, it also takes a somewhat minimalist/realistic attitude towards set design sometimes.

For this most part, this change works well. However, just like how the grand sweeping drama of the film lacks some of the intimacy of the small-scale storytelling of the original film, the set design here is often missing one of the key components of the original “Blade Runner”. I am, of course, talking about visual complexity.

Yes, there are lots of sweeping cityscapes, grim wastelands and “realistic” interior locations – but the film often lacks the beautifully complex, chaotic messiness of the original film. In the original “Blade Runner”, you will always notice some new visual detail whenever you rewatch it because the set designs are so visually complex. On the other hand, this isn’t really the case with “Blade Runner 2049”. Even so, it is still one of the best-looking films made within the past decade or two.

All in all, this is a brilliant film which shows that good, intelligent, complex films can still be made these days. Yes, it isn’t quite as good as the original “Blade Runner”, but this is only because it is impossible to surpass perfection. But, taken on it’s own merits, this film is one of the best films that I’ve seen in quite a while.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would just about get a five.

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Top Ten Articles – December 2017

Well, it’s the end of the month (and the year). So, I thought that I’d do my usual thing of compiling a list of links to the ten best articles about making art, making comics and/or writing fiction that I’ve posted here over the past month. As usual, I’ll include a couple of honourable mentions too.

All in all, this month has been something of a variable one in terms of the quality of my articles. It was probably a better month than the previous one, although it’s still probably not quite the best one that I ever had.

Anyway, here are the lists 🙂 Enjoy 🙂

Top Ten Articles – December 2017:

– “Two More Ways To Disguise “Talking Head” Webcomic Updates
– “Three Things To Do When You See A Better Webcomic (Than Yours)
– “Three Sneaky Ways To Show Off In Your Art
– “Four Reasons Why Some Creative Works Become Better With Time
-“How To Deal With Self-Critical Uninspiration – A Ramble
– “Some Thoughts About Indirect Influences – A Ramble
– “The “30-50% Black Paint” Rule (And How To Use It)
– “Remember – Inspiration Isn’t Always Instant
– “Three Ways To Make Art In A Genre You Find Difficult”
– “Two Ways To Know Which Comic Update Ideas To Use

Honourable mentions:

– “Implication In The Horror Genre – A Ramble
– “Why It’s Important To Be Open To Artistic Influence – A Ramble

Review: “Doctor Who – Twice Upon A Time” (TV Show Episode)

Well, although it’s a little on the late side of things, I thought that I’d review this year’s Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”.

So, let’s take a look at “Twice Upon A Time”. Needless to say, this review will contain some SPOILERS.

“Twice Upon A Time” begins with a recap… of an old episode from the 1960s starring William Hartnell as the first Doctor.

Yes, if you were expecting a recap of the ending of the series from earlier this year, you’re in for a surprise…

Dying, he stumbles out of the TARDIS into the South Pole whilst displaying a Churchillian level of determination to stay alive. However, much to his surprise, he meets the current Doctor (who is also dying) – but doesn’t recognise him.

As they begin to talk, the falling snow around them suddenly freezes in the air. A rather confused WW1 officer then interrupts their conversation. It quickly becomes obvious that something is wrong with time itself..

Don’t worry, I’m sure that Baldrick has a cunning plan…

One of the first things that I will say about this episode is that it is classic “Doctor Who”. It is able to be serious without being miserable. It is able to be poignant without being depressing. It is able to be profound and deep, but is still able to be intriguingly mysterious. It is able to be morally complex without being too morally ambiguous. As send-offs go, this is one of the best ones that I’ve seen.

As you would expect, this is an episode about memory and death. A lot of the episode’s story revolves around whether our memories make us who we are. Not only is this shown in the many humourous and dramatic interactions between the two Doctors, but the premise of the episode also allows for a few appearances from familiar characters from earlier in the show (eg: Bill, Clara, Nardole etc..). And, in a lot of ways, the episode’s theme of memories also reminded me a little bit of both “Blade Runner” films. Which is never a bad thing 🙂

Of course, “Blade Runner” isn’t the only thing this episode reminded me of. This scene contains a brilliant parody of and/or homage to “Alien” too 🙂

Another cool thing about this episode is that time travel is a really central part of it. Although the entire show revolves around time travel, it is often more of a background detail or an excuse for the characters to be somewhere interesting. This episode, on the other hand, is all about how time affects people. A lot of the episode’s story revolves around the complex interactions between the past, the modern age and the distant future – and this is handled really well.

Such as this brilliant little moment when a man from the 1910s finds a piece of 1980s/90s technology whilst standing inside a time machine from the distant future.

The episode also approaches the topic of death with the high level of maturity, complexity, compassion and humanity that you would expect. The episode is also something of an exploration of the fear of death too (albeit in a somewhat stoical and understated way). Seriously, I cannot praise the writing in this episode highly enough.

Although some of the episode’s poignancy and emotional resonance will only “work” if you’ve seen Peter Capaldi’s other episodes on the show, the episode packs one hell of an emotional punch if you have. However if, like me, you haven’t really seen any of the pre-2005 episodes of the show, then some of the episode’s references may seem a little bit confusing.

For example, whilst these two characters are obviously the first Doctor’s companions, I have no clue what their names are etc….

The characters in this episode are absolutely brilliant. Although William Hartnell’s version of the Doctor is obviously played by another actor, he certainly seems like a character from an old TV show.

He’s a grumpy, patronising and stubborn old man – who somehow manages to be both steely and Churchillian, yet hilariously old-fashioned, at the same time. He could have easily turned into a caricature, but he comes across as a character who is both set in his ways and yet highly inexperienced at the same time. It’s a really difficult balance to get right, and the episode nails it perfectly.

Plus, he even wears a monocle at one point too.

Likewise, the WW1 officer in the episode is also a more nuanced character than he appears to be. Although he is something of a typical “stiff upper lip”-style character, he doesn’t really stray too much into the realm of Blackadder-esque caricature most of the time, and he comes across as a surprisingly nuanced and complex character.

The Doctor and Bill are, as you would expect, the same excellent characters as they have been for the past couple of series of the show too. And it is great to see them getting a proper ending to their story (as opposed to the “deus ex machina” ending of series ten):

Yay! There’s some proper resolution to this chapter of “Doctor Who” 🙂

Jodie Whittaker’s much-anticipated appearance as the next Doctor is also a really cool moment. The scene in question is dramatic, funny (eg: the Doctor’s amazed reaction when she looks in a mirror) and is quintessentially “Doctor Who”. But, it is literally just a moment. This awesome scene is over within the space of about a minute… and with a cliffhanger ending too!

And, in contrast to Capaldi’s gloomy portrayal of the Doctor, Whittaker’s Doctor seems to be more of the eccentric and/or cheerful David Tennant/Matt Smith school of Doctoring. Well, this is what I guessed from the few seconds she actually appeared for…

As you would expect, the dialogue in this episode is absolutely brilliant. Although there are lots of serious lines (such as the Doctor’s brilliant soliloquy before he regenerates), the episode is also filled with lots of amusing and witty dialogue segments too. Again, as a send-off for this era of the show, it is absolutely brilliant!

Seriously, this is the best “ending” episode that I’ve seen 🙂

The set design and lighting in this episode are brilliant too. Not only does the episode sometimes use lighting to create atmospheric colour schemes (eg: red and blue, blue and orange etc..) but there’s also lots of beautiful chiaroscuro/ tenebrist lighting here too. Seriously, the lighting in some scenes looks like something from a Caravaggio painting 🙂

Yes! THIS is how to use lighting 🙂

Seriously, this scene could almost be a Caravaggio painting!

However, this episode does have the annoying modern habit of using lots of lens flare sometimes….

This is also complemented by some brilliant set design too, with many of the episode’s locations evoking a theme of oldness, bleakness and/or decay.

Including a segment set on a post-apocalyptic planet that looks like something from an old horror movie 🙂

And check out this location that manages to look ancient and futuristic at the same time 🙂

The episode’s special effects are also reasonably ok too. Although the CGI effects are sometimes a little bit obvious, this doesn’t really matter as much as you might think since the story of the episode is so gripping that you’ll probably be willing to overlook any minor flaws with the effects. I mean, it could have 1980s special effects and it would still be a compelling episode.

Yes, some of the CGI effects look like something from at least a decade ago. But, the story is so compelling that this doesn’t matter.

All in all, this is a brilliant way to end this era of the show. This episode is poignant, funny, dramatic, spectacular, intelligent and visually brilliant. My only real complaint about it is that the scene introducing the new Doctor was far too short.

If I had to give it a rating out of five, it would get a five.

Merry Christmas Everyone :)

Merry Christmas everyone 🙂 Normal daily articles and art posts will resume tomorrow. But, in the meantime, here’s an extra Christmas comic (more festive comics featuring these characters can be found here and here). And here’s the line art for this comic too.

I’m also not sure when or if I’ll review the Christmas episode of “Doctor Who”. If I review it, the review may or may not possibly appear until anything up to a few days later.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] "Merry Christmas 2017" By C. A. Brown

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Merry Christmas 2017” By C. A. Brown

“Finale” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #10)

Stay tuned for a full series retrospective tomorrow evening at 9:30pm [GMT]

After the Christmas rush had started, I’d begun to get a little too used to the sound of people knocking on my office door. Don’t get me wrong, ever since I’d found myself in the strange situation of becoming a consulting detective for the users of a trendy new “gig economy” private detective app who found themselves out of their depth, this had been my most successful Christmas yet.

But, I was getting too used to people knocking on the door.

This was probably why I didn’t recognise the knock until it was too late. That sharp, gunshot-like rapping which portends nothing but trouble. It isn’t the indiscriminate hammering of an angry caller or the soft tapping of a charity collector, it’s the knock of someone who feels that they have every right to frighten you and all the time in the world to do it.

Come in, it’s.. open.‘ I said, as a sinking feeling washed through my gut. I had mere seconds to prepare myself.

The door swung open and two men in designer suits walked through. They were mid-thirties, athletic and wearing sunglasses. One of them asked me my name. I considered giving a false one but I had the feeling that they’d probably seen a photo of me before. So, I gave them my real name.

With a sharp intake of breath, the other man said: ‘We understand that you’ve been providing a “consulting detective” service.

I shrugged: ‘Are you interested in hiring me?

He held up a corporate ID card like it was a police badge: ‘We are shutting your little operation down.

Huh? There’s no law against helping out the poor souls who signed up to your app.‘ I shrugged again, careful not to show fear.

The man closest to the door reached into his jacket and pulled out a sheaf of papers. Speaking in a robotic monotone, he said: ‘Terms and conditions, section five, subsection thirty-two. Provision of unauthorised ancillary services….

I must have zoned out for a few minutes but, when my attention returned to the room, he was still reading. ‘…subject to any action the company deems necessary.

The other man spoke softly, like he was trying to be my friend: ‘What this basically means is that you need to stop offering your services to our customers. It..‘ He made a show of trying to control his emotions ‘.. disrupts our ecosystem.

Or what?‘ I asked.

Robot man stepped in again: ‘You will be in further violation of our terms and conditions. This could result in suspension of your…

Ah.‘ I grinned ‘I never signed up to them. And, more importantly, I never signed up to your app either.

Robot man said ‘Yes, but your clients have. We demand to see a list of all of our users who have used your services. Examples have to be made.

I shrugged and tapped my forehead: ‘It’s in here. First rule of a good P.I is to know what not to write down. The second rule of a good P.I is to start recording as soon as someone official knocks on the door.

I made a show of reaching under my desk and pulling out a small dictaphone cassette. ‘The papers will no doubt be interested to know about your attempts to access private data about my clients. And, if they aren’t interested, there’s always the internet.

The men were speechless. With a smile, I gestured towards the door: ‘But I hope it doesn’t come to that. I trust you can see yourselves out.

As they shuffled away sheepishly, I cracked open a new bottle of scotch and poured myself a large measure. Outside my window, the snow continued to fall and the Christmas lights above the high street gently glowed and flickered. I twiddled the blank dictaphone cassette between my fingers before putting it back under the desk. The third rule of a good P.I is, of course, to be a better con artist than the ones who walk through your door.

“The Twelve Cases Of Christmas” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #9)

Stay tuned for the final short story in this series tomorrow evening at 9:30pm GMT 🙂

If there was one thing I didn’t expect after I’d set myself up as a consulting detective for people who had signed up to a trendy new “gig economy” private detective app and found themselves out of their depth, it’s that I would be drawn into the pre-Christmas rush. I mean, I’m hardly a supermarket or anything like that. Yet, today, I found myself with no less than twelve clients.

My first client wanted me to find a lost cat. I just gave him the phone number of another client who had made some off-hand remark about specialising in searching for lost pets. Then I wished him luck. People are easy to track down, but cats are something else entirely.

My second client had found himself drawn into some kind of international conspiracy involving the Illuminati, extraterrestrial life and the United Nations.

After giving him valuable advice about how to fashion a protective cap from common household supplies, I dropped a cryptic hint that the answers he sought could be found behind a secret panel in the cloakroom of Hitler’s second bunker- which could be found by overlaying a sketch of the chemtrails above the local shopping centre at precisely 6:16am onto an out-of-print map of Milton Keynes from 1949. Well, we all amuse ourselves in different ways, I guess.

My third client had been hired by someone who was sure that his partner had just started having an affair. It was a pretty open and shut case. After all, who has the time for things like that during the pre-Christmas rush?

My fourth client was probably a serial killer. Thankfully, he was a rather stupid one. I’m still waiting for my letter of commendation from the police.

My fifth client had found herself trying to track down an out-of-print book from 1973 for a wealthy bibliophile. I got to astonish her by pulling a copy of the book from the old bookshelf in the corner of my office. Not bothering to clean out my office when I’d started renting it was an even wiser decision than I had thought. I celebrated by resolving never to tidy my desk drawers.

My sixth client had been hired by someone who didn’t know how to operate his VCR. How anyone still has a functioning VCR in this day and age, I’ll never know.

My seventh client actually turned out to be my second client again, who had just remembered that Milton Keynes hadn’t been built until the 1960s. When he threatened to report me for fraud, I just lowered my voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said ‘No, the OTHER Milton Keynes.. the one THEY don’t want you to know about.‘ He just nodded sagely, thanked me profoundly and left. I tried not to laugh too much.

My eighth client had been hired by someone who needed to find eight maids a-milking for a themed Christmas party. I solemnly pointed out that such a thing not only broke five EU food hygiene regulations, but that it also perpetuated outdated stereotypes about the modern farming industry. She seemed to believe me. I just hoped her client did too.

My ninth client wanted to sell me double-glazing. I showed him the door instead.

My tenth client had been hired by someone who wanted to solve a seemingly impossible murder that had taken place in a locked room in a sealed train carriage in the middle of nowhere. I passed the case on to my friends in the local police. Serves them right for not sending me that letter of commendation.

My eleventh client had been falsely accused of murdering someone in a locked room in a sealed train carriage in the middle of nowhere. I introduced her to my tenth client and told them to argue in the hall. Best thirty minutes of entertainment I’d had in years.

My twelfth client gave me an angry phone call saying that he’d been scared away from my office by two idiots outside the door who had been arguing about trains, of all things. I feigned ignorance and suggested that he’d got the address wrong, before giving him the “right” address. I felt sorry for the owner of the local pizza shop though. Still, with all those detective novels he keeps lying around on the counter, he’d probably have a field day when my client showed up.

Letting out a long sigh, I checked my watch. It wasn’t even noon yet. I hate Christmas.

“Paranormal” By C. A. Brown (Noir Christmas Short Stories – #8)

Stay tuned for the next story tomorrow evening at 9:30pm GMT 🙂

Thanks to late-night television, people actually believe that ghost-hunting is a real thing. If ghosts actually exist, then it’s probably best not to find them. I mean, there’s a reason why haunted houses in horror movies usually tend to be abandoned. Plus, what exactly are you going to do if you find a ghost? Put it in jail?

But, ever since I’d set myself up as a consulting detective for users of a trendy new “gig economy” private detective app who had found themselves out of their depth, I knew that it was only a matter of time before someone asked me to look for a ghost or debunk a seance or something silly like that.

And, like hoping not to see a monster in a nightmare, what you don’t wish for can often come true.

The day started out like any other. I’d just refilled my e-cigarette with some new juice that I was sure would finally get rid of the lingering aftertaste from an ill-advised brandy-flavoured refill I’d used a week ago. But, before I could test it out, I heard a frantic knock on my office door.

Come in, it’s open.‘ I said.

Before the door even opened, a panicked voice said: ‘I need you to find a ghost.

Try the funeral directors down the hall.‘ I sighed.

The door swung open a second later. I’d expected to see a goth or a wizened old man or a gothic old man. But, the trembling man who stood in the doorway looked like the kind of guy you only ever see in magazines or old films. He had a suit that probably wasn’t bought from the supermarket and a slicked-back hairstyle that was probably deceptively high-maintenance.

Not even bothering to introduce himself, he said: ‘I’ll cut to the chase. I’ve got a new property deal going through at the moment, but about halfway through the negotiations to redevelop the community centre, strange things started happening.

Feigning surprise, I said: ‘Like ghosts?

Exactly!‘ He pointed at me like I’d just solved Fermat’s last theorem ‘It all started when I began to hear mysterious noises at night. Clanking chains, loud knocking on the walls of my flat and constant moaning. The police weren’t interested and the idiot I hired on GUMS4U wasn’t much use either. I only got your name by threatening to give him a low detective rating if he didn’t point me to someone who could actually do the job.

What about your landlord? Surely they’re the person to talk to about all of this.‘ I shrugged. ‘Ask for some sound-proofing too. It’ll be less awkward than having a chat with the neighbours.

He sat down and let out a sharp sigh ‘I am the landlord. And I live in the penthouse. I’m going to double my money with this new redevelopment project too. But, investors don’t take kindly to frightened developers. So, I need you to solve this ghost problem. On the double!

Ah‘ I said ‘I think that I know the solution. All you have to do is to leave the community centre alone and donate some money to the poor. You know, like in that Charles Dickens story.

Is this some kind of joke?‘ He glared at me.

Try it.‘ I shrugged ‘If it’s ghosts, then they’ll go away. And if it’s protesters pretending to be ghosts, they’ll go away too. It’s much better than living in fear and spending a fortune on noise-cancelling headphones, security guards and CCTV cameras.

Of course!‘ A wicked smile crossed his face as he got to his feet ‘Why didn’t I think of that? I’ve been wasting my time talking to private detectives, when I should be talking to a security company instead! Thank you, your cheque is in the post.‘ With a newfound spring in his step, he left. I facepalmed.

Sitting back and shaking my head, I took a drag on my e-cig. It still tasted like brandy.