Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Book Spat Guf-faw!!!

Tired of mysteries that seem to spin out the same old tired clich├ęs, one after another? Bored with the same old same old private eye schtick? Had enough of books with all the fizz of that half-empty bottle of club soda in the back of the fridge left over from last Christmas?

Then might I humbly suggest going to Helena Handbasket?

Donna Moore's subversive new private eye novel ...GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET is just what the librarian (or possibly the mental health specialist) ordered, a kick in the balls to the same-old same-old, a welcome blast of recycled air that doesn't take anything -- much less the tried-and-true conventions of the mystery genre -- seriously.

Make no mistake here -- we're talking full-tilt parody here, a full-frontal assault on just about everything you've come to expect in crime fiction, a bungee jump down the rabbit hole of literary predictability.

You'll laugh, you'll giggle, you'll snort whatever you're drinking through your nose. But mostly you'll groan... and ponder if the author is all there. Moore comes off like an unholy cross between Raymond Chandler and Alfred E. Neuman, leaving no pun unspun and no turn of phrase unstoned. In Moore's world no cow is too sacred and no play on words too painful.

Certainly, Helena herself isn't quite right -- she makes Honey West look like a nuclear physicist. Imagine Dan Turner and Mae West's bastard love child, a man-hungry bozo with a penchant for martinis, gourmet food, designer shoes and zero aptitude for detective work, plunging head-on into a convoluted and complicated case that will have your head spinning and your gut convulsing with laughter -- and recognition.

Moore lovingly makes her way down a checklist of the genre's usual suspects and most beloved stereotypes, ticking them off one by one, and letting the air out of each and every one.

The elderly cop due for retirement?
The crime-solving cat?
The psycho sidekick?
The long-suffering secretary?
The cop boyfriend?
The enigmatic FBI profiler?
The obsessed serial killer?
The missing loot from a long-ago jewel heist?
The mysterious next-door neighbour who smells of cheese?

Check, check, check. They're all here, all deliciously grilled and lambasted over a low heat of bufoonery and lampoonery. Also along for the ride are a slew of characters with monikers like Smilla daCrowde, Evan Stubezzi and Fifi Fofum.

This is Ms. Moore's first novel, and it's clear she'll go far. Maybe even as far as Siam.

But don't take my word for it. Here's what someone much more important and beloved in the mystery world than me said:

"Of all the books of which I've read this year which are very many because I'm the world's (and possibly the universe's) number one mystery reviewer and this is a mystery novel which I did so read (so there) even if it was very quickly because I'm a speed reader and even though as I said I'm a speed reader I understood every single word even the big ones and I don't care what smart alecks whose names I won't mention sometimes say about of which my syntax is occasionally fractured I would have to say that ...Go to Helena Handbasket is one of those many mystery books that I have read and it was most delightful and a real page turner of a roller coaster ride that I couldn't put down all night long and I would give it five big stars and all I can say is Moore, Moore, Moore."


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