A host of eccentric criminals and an intrepid investigator get lost in the management of the U.S. Postal Service in this novel.
In a promisingly outlandish beginning, Quinlan (Collected Plays of Francis Quinlin, 2016) introduces readers to a man named The Professor, the wild resident of an asylum who channels a modern god named enoon, “deity, third rank, journalist, Cosmic News Bureau, New England Department.” It is actually enoon who narrates the story of POF and POOF, words soon revealed to be competing acronyms for an experiment in new amenities at the Postal Service. Almost five years after the implementation of POOF, $17.5 million of foreign currency disappears from a post office, throwing the postmaster, the U.S. president, numerous reporters, a group of bizarre conspirators, and even a curious old landlady on a collision course with one another and the corrupt, tangled bureaucracy that made the crime possible. At the center of all of this mess is Postal Inspector Emmett Keene, a solid investigator running only a few steps behind the culprits but always a little too late to stop their next crime or keep the chaos from evolving into a potential money-laundering scandal for the government. This is mostly thanks to a small, secret society that is manipulating the press to keep Keene off the track, unwittingly giving one of its own the perfect opportunity for a double-cross. While early chapters feature a blend of inspired lunacy with political critique reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut or Tom Robbins, Quinlan’s novel buries its most charming features with a more conventional procedural. Too much time with the two-dimensional Keene and an overwhelming number of point-of-view characters produce this effect, but nonetheless there are bright, quirky moments that cannot help but grab the spotlight. An incredibly hot-tempered postal worker, villains who develop their own court system for making decisions, and a man with multiple personalities are just some of the inventive elements that should dominate this story but that unfortunately spend too much time in the shadows.
A quirky heist tale with too much
emphasis on the theft, leaving its more vibrant features behind.