Email this review


Implausible comic ramble in which denizens of a housing co-op band together to solve a mystery.

The hook here is the bondage world, and a sinister aquarium-shop the bait, but the fishing expedition nets little. Jen is an ex-habitué of the “Scene”: South London’s S&M bars. In a contrived plot launch, she leaves the comforts of her community of dole-supported nuevo-hippies and their warren of council flats to seek a job at BBC-TV. There, she comes upon an executive (married to a Tory MP) from her bar days known as “Stapled Stan,” so named for his strategically placed piercings. Stan is up a ladder in his office, starkers, and stapled (via his penis and a chain) to a portrait of the Queen Mum. It gets even more bizarre from there, though newcomer Alper’s understated wit draws us in. Abandoning her job search, Jen throws herself and her accommodating, spleef-smoking apartment mates into a search for the miscreants who are blackmailing Stan. This effort involves holding Stan semi-captive in the flats while encountering a series of ever-more menacing thugs who all seem to have a mysterious link with an aquatic shop called Koi Korner (KKK?), whose proprietress bears an uncanny resemblance to—Leni Riefenstahl? When the residents of Nirvana Co-op become the targets of the Stan-harassers, they rev their engines for many pages without really doing much other than noshing multicultural specialties and demonstrating against globalization. Occasionally, Jen girds her leather bustier and delves back into the Scene, though without uncovering much but lurid local color. When truly grisly violent episodes pile up, against humans, fish and cats, the humorous tone palls. When it becomes apparent that Stan himself is impeding the investigation by not ’fessing up to all the reasons some proto-Nazis might have it in for him, Jen pulls out all the stops, not to mention her handy set of handcuffs and chains.

Appealing characters forced into cruel contortions by inane plot.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2004
ISBN: 0-297-82990-4
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson/Trafalgar
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2004