SMOKE by Donald E. Westlake


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Don't confuse this with the recent Paul Auster/Wayne Wang movie; think instead of Ellison's The Invisible Man. Because that's what happens to petty thief Freddie Noon when he breaks into a research lab looking for something to steal: The two doctors who run the lab for the American Tobacco Research Institute use him as a guinea pig for the experiment that's already left their two cats translucent. The now-invisible Freddie escapes, but how long can he and his girl, Peg Briscoe, keep ahead of (1) the doctors, bent on monitoring their unwilling subject; (2) the nefarious Institute, determined to use Freddie by hook or crook to promote their theory that smoking won't hurt you; and (3) a crooked New York cop who can imagine some very lucrative, illegal, and dangerous things an invisible man could be forced to do? Westlake (Baby, Would I Lie?, 1994, etc.) proceeds from one elaborate set-piece to the next, showing (well, not exactly showing) Freddie in action in New York City's diamond district, slathered with makeup and prosthetics for a night on the town, and riding a bicycle naked en route to the rousing, predictable finale. Full of fun, but not as funny--or as spirited or well-constructed--as Westlake's best. Only the anti-tobacco satire hits square on the mark.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1995
ISBN: 044640344X
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Mysterious