Tag Archives: Murder

Bizzaro Book Review: Heads You Lose by Lisa Lutz and David Hayward

In the past I’ve noted the many downsides to being a writer, one of which was this: consuming fiction changes into critiquing fiction. You can’t read a book or watch a movie without thinking, “Oh well, I would have done that differently,” or “Do they really expect us to believe that was her motivation?” and so on.

And that writer’s sense of story, almost wrecked Heads You Lose for me.

Here’s the scoop. Writers know that you need to start your book strong to keep readers interested. Telling someone, “Oh, well the beginning drags a little, but don’t worry it really picks up in the third chapter,” is looked down upon big time.

So when my wife, who read this book ahead of me, said, “It takes a while to get good,” I thought, “Oh brother, why should I even waste my time?”

But here’s the thing. Heads You Loose does take some time to get good. But when it gets good, it really gets good.

The premise of the book is this: two writers decide to collaborate to write a murder mystery novel, after having failed in a similar partnership some years before. The bulk of the novel is the murder mystery itself, interspersed with letters between the two writers chronicling their growing frustration with each other’s plot twists, pacing, characters…the list just goes on.

And this is where the story gets really interesting. Because within the murder mystery our two dueling writers continually take potshots at each others, some subtle, some not. One author’s favourite character is killed off by the other, only to be brought back to life, killed again, then replaced with almost identical relative (with rhyming name no less).

In spite of all of this intranarrative snarking, the murder mystery itself still manages to be fun and intriguing.

And while there are some truly hilarious moments, including one chapter that made me laugh so hard that I fell out of my chair, it seems almost wrong to call this book a comedy.  but there’s something deeper at work here. The meta-fictional aspects of the story really work well together without trying to change the narrative into some over-pompous quasi-intellectual masterpiece.

If you want to you can dig deeper and ponder the fuzzy relationship between the personalities of the writers as they are portrayed in the book and their real life personas. Or you can just sit back and enjoy the fun.

Either way, if you can loose yourself in the twisted storyline, this book will not disappoint.

Give it a shot. And don’t mind the opening. Trust me. It gets better.

Bizzaro Book Review: Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

Guys, you know that thing where you ask your wife, “What’s wrong honey?” and your wife says, “Nothing” but what she really means is, “You are in trouble, but I am not going to tell you why, so there“? This book is about that.

Yes. You heard me right. If you are a married man, this is the most terrifying book you will read. EVER.

Mr. Peanut is about marriage and murder, and the contempt bred by familiarity that bridges the gap between the two. The narrative follows three sets of marriages which are intertwined in such a way as to make them into a literal literary Möbius strip.

If that sounds confusing to you, then trust me, it is. Quentin Tarantino could learn a thing or two about non-linear storytelling from Adam Ross. The strange and twisted tales of three men and their wives overlap in ways that are not immediately apparent.

The story in a nutshell (heh heh) is this: David Peppin is accused of murdering his wife, and two detectives must sort through the dizzying threads of his story to determine whether he is really the killer.

But far from being a straightforward murder mystery, this story delves deep into the dark side of marriage, bringing to light the pain, joy, and ultimate boredom that can arise out of spending so many years of your life with the same person.

The greatest problem that this book faces is that it incredibly clever. This might seem like a strange thing to criticize, especially for the guy who absolutely adores House of Leaves, but the problem here is that the cleverness overtakes the flow of the story. The disjointed non-linear narrative is fine to a point, but when the book drops one narrative thread which had previously been the driving force of the book and jumps into another almost completely unrelated story for the space of more than a hundred pages, it’s somewhat disorienting and discouraging to the reader.  I understand that the jump was necessary to complete the books unique Möbius strip structure, but in my mind the novelty of that structure was not enough to justify the sacrifices made to the story’s forward momentum.

Having said that, this book is still a fantastic read, quite unlike anything else I’ve ever reviewed here before. In spite of its occasional failings it triumphs as a treatise on marriage, infidelity, love and redemption. If you’re looking for a book that will grab your mind and suck you into its twisted world, look no further. Adam Ross’s Mr. Peanut has got what you need.